Well, this isn’t the kind of news that’s fun to report on an entertaining weekend of basketball: LaMelo Ball’s rookie season is over.

That’s via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the injury Ball suffered against the Clippers is a right wrist fracture, and he won’t be able to play through it.

According to Woj, Ball’s injury is near the thumb:

Well, that blows. It probably doesn’t matter much for this kind of injury, but that is his shooting hand, making it even more important that he’s fully healthy before he returns.

The play on which he was injured seemed fairly innocuous, as far as injuries go. It was a fall, yes, but plays like this happen dozens of times per game:

Even in terms of bracing a fall, that impact didn’t look that bad. But these are the dangers of contact sports; whenever bones are regularly hitting the floor, a few breaks are inevitable.

It’s just a shitty blow, not only for Ball himself (he was likely headed for Rookie of the Year, a race that now gets a lot more complicated) but for the Hornets. Charlotte is right in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

That picture is muddled; the Hornets would the be #8 seed if the season ended today, meaning they’d be headed for the play-in tournament. That’s an outcome they would have definitelyt aken this offseason; they’re only 1.5 games behind fourth-place Atlanta.

Making a playoff push was a key goal for Charlotte this year; it’s rare in the modern NBA to have a team that’s aiming for a goal between “championship contender” and “tank for top pick”, the Hornets goal is admirable, if short of supporters in the analytical NBA community.

To that end they splurged on Gordon Hayward, an addition that has paid immediate dividends with Hayward reverting to something close to his peak. But the team’s most exciting newcomer was Ball, the #3 overall pick putting up an absurd 16/6/6 slash line, while shooting 37.5% from 3-point range and nearly 80% from the free throw line. For a player whose shot was his biggest offensive question, Ball has certainly offered plenty of convincing answers so far. His passing: unquestionably special already.

Not a great defender (most rookies aren’t), Ball still has size, length, and awareness. He looked like a future superstar caliber player for most of the year, with that future being of the “near” variety; it wasn’t hard to imagine Ball and Hayward leading Charlotte to a play-in triumph and a tough opening series against one of the East’s more heralded teams.

Instead, Charlotte might end up pivoting the other direction; they could sell vets before the deadline, if they wanted, and aim for another high pick next year to slot in alongside Ball and Hayward.

Even if the year doesn’t end the way it was trending, though, Charlotte still has to feel fantastic with Ball in the fold. Anthony Edwards has had some very huge dunks and has been more versatile of late, and James Wiseman has been effective for Golden State. But just halfway through the season, it was already getting tough to look at the Wolves and Warriors as having not passed on the best player in the class.

Hopefully Ball recovers quickly and we get more ridiculously spun multi-axis transition passes starting next season.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.