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Preview: LaMelo Ball optimistic to return as Hornets meet Pistons

The Athletic’s Shams Charania broke the news around noon on Wednesday.

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (7-20) vs. Detroit Pistons (7-22)

When: 7:00 PM EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Outfitting: Hornets — Association (white); Pistons — Classic (teal)

Injury report:

CHA: LaMelo Ball (ankle sprain), QUESTIONABLE; Gordon Hayward (fractured scapula), OUT; Cody Martin (knee surgery), OUT; Dennis Smith Jr. (ankle sprain), OUT; Mark Williams (ankle sprain), OUT.

DET: Cade Cunningham (shin surgery), OUT; Isaiah Livers (shoulder), OUT.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported that LaMelo Ball is “optimistic” to return to the lineup ahead of tonight’s matchup between the Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons.

Moments later, Charlotte Hornets PR officially upgraded his status to questionable on tonight’s injury report. Ball, who has played in just three games this season, has been sidelined since aggravating a previously-sprained left ankle on Nov. 16 against Indiana.

Adding Ball back to the lineup would give the Hornets an even greater chance to snap a five-game losing streak as they face Detroit fresh off the news that Cade Cunningham will miss the remainder of the season with surgery on his shin. The Pistons are currently the only team in the NBA with a worse record than the Hornets, and things are unlikely to turn around for them without their franchise player. If Ball is ready to go, Detroit has a leg up in the tank battle tonight.

On the season, the Pistons are 24th in offense and 29th in defense. Though Cunningham has been out since Nov. 9, there have been some bright moments in Detroit. Jaden Ivey’s rookie season has gone to plan, as he ranks in the 86th percentile in shot frequency at the rim, has drawn a shooting foul on 15 percent of his attempts and holds an above-average assist rate for his position, all per Cleaning The Glass. The efficiency isn’t there yet, but his neck-breaking speed and limitless lateral mobility still stand out even among NBA peers.

Jalen Duren revenge game tonight. After being selected with the 13th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Hornets traded Duren to the Knicks in exchange for Denver’s protected 2023 first-round pick and four future second-round picks before New York re-routed him to Detroit. So far, Duren is averaging 6.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and has started their last two games, putting up a double-double against Memphis and corralling 13 rebounds versus the Lakers.

Let’s hope this marks the permanent return of LaMelo Ball. The Hornets offense has improved in recent games and now, head coach Steve Clifford (hopefully) has the franchise point guard and one of the league’s best passers at his disposal for an extended period. It’s going to be fun to monitor how/if the team’s offensive style changes with its best player back in the fold.