Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (1) drives past New York...

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (1) drives past New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in New York. LaMelo Ball is once again contemplating wearing ankle braces if it means staying on the court. Ball has been limited to 58 games the past two seasons due to ankle issues and hasn’t played for the Charlotte Hornets since Jan. 26. The 2022 All-Star point guard knows that needs to change. “I’m going to see over the summer, try some stuff,” Ball said of the protective braces. Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LaMelo Ball is once again contemplating wearing ankle braces if it means staying on the court.

Ball has been limited to 58 games the past two seasons because of ankle issues and hasn’t played for the Charlotte Hornets since Jan. 26. The 2022 All-Star point guard knows that needs to change.

“I’m going to see over the summer, try some stuff,” Ball said of the protective braces.

He said if he can find something that feels good “we can go from there.”

Ball started wearing ankle braces in practice before the season after three separate ankle injuries in 2022-23 sidelined him for long stretches and ultimately resulted in surgery. But he could never find anything he was completely comfortable with on his feet.

The ankle is feeling better now and Ball is looking forward to finally being healthy this summer and working on his game.

“My favorite thing to do is play basketball and to not be able to do it is just horrible,” Ball said. “That fact that I got this summer (to be healthy), I’m going to take it and get it as strong I can to get out there and play.”

Ball, who is only 22, signed a rookie max contract extension last summer that will pay him up to $260 million over the next five seasons.

So he is a cornerstone in Charlotte.

When healthy, he was dynamite this season averaging 23.9 points, eight assists and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 36% from beyond the arc.

The Hornets believe if they can keep Ball on the court and pair him with three-time NBA rookie of the month Brandon Miller they can break their eight-year playoff drought, the longest in the NBA.

“He makes our team go,” Hornets center Nick Richards said. “It's really important for us to have him on the court.”

Ball said he feels like the Hornets have a great team but "we just need everybody to be available to play."

Ball wasn't the only injury for the Hornets as starting center Mark Williams and guard Cody Martin were others who missed significant time. Gordon Hayward also struggled with injuries before being traded. Williams battled back injuries but vowed to be ready next season.

The Hornets will have a new coach then with Steve Clifford stepping down.

Ball's absences from games have predictably been a source of frustration for Hornets fans, and the No. 3 overall pick in 2020 has drawn plenty of criticism for his lack of durability.

But teammate Miles Bridges said Ball is highly competitive and told him he plans to play at least 75 games next season.

“LaMelo wants to be on the court,” Bridges said. “That’s what people think, that he doesn’t want to be on the court and just wants to wear his jewelry on the sideline. But he wants to be on the court and he wants to win. He knows how important he is to this organization and this is going to be a big summer for him.”

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