Ball on Track to Start the Opener

On Oct. 2, Lonzo Ball swatted Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay at the rim during L.A.’s second preseason game, only to land on Mudiay’s foot and sprain his left ankle. The injury kept Ball out of the final four exhibition games, and made his health the biggest question of camp.

Fortunately for the Lakers, their No. 2 overall pick declared himself ready to roll for the season opener against the Clippers after fully participating in Monday’s scrimmage.

“I’m playing for sure,” he said. “I’ll be ready for Thursday.”

Coach Luke Walton said Ball both “Showed why he’s going to be really good” in the scrimmage, and also looked rusty, racking up a slew of turnovers.

That’s no shocker, considering Ball hadn’t played without limits in two weeks.

The ankle was originally described as a “mild sprain,” suggesting that perhaps Ball could return for a preseason game or two. Lonzo explained why things took longer.

“That night when I woke up, it got fat,” Ball said. “That’s what set me back a little bit.”

The previous step Ball took came last Thursday, when he first returned to limited practice, doing everything but the full-court scrimmage with contact.

Ball felt OK the next day when going through a pregame workout, but the training staff determined it best not to play him in that night’s preseason finale, a win over the Clippers.

Saturday’s practice was a light affair that featured “a bunch of offensive execution,” according to Walton, but no contact drills. As such, it was tough to evaluate Lonzo’s ankle as the players simply ran through sets, got reps and then did shooting drills.

But on Monday, Ball was able to push up and down the court without incident, including leading fastbreaks to get Brandon Ingram and Luol Deng layups in the final minutes once the media was let into practice. In that time, he was jumping with confidence in traffic, grabbing a pair of offensive boards, and didn’t appear to be favoring his ankle.

Who’s going to start next to Ball on Thursday is another matter. His regular partner, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, has to serve the final two games of a suspension handed down last season. Walton allowed that it could be Deng, but listed alternate options like Jordan Clarkson, Corey Brewer or Kyle Kuzma.

Either way, Ball, barring some setback in Tuesday or Wednesday’s practices, is good to go.

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