“I didn’t know he was gonna be full go so fast,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers‘ practice Saturday. “He’s been going through live drills the last 2½ days. His bounce is there. His speed is there.”
“So I don’t even know if he even had surgery,” James added, jokingly.
Ball underwent surgery on a torn left meniscus in mid-July, and the Lakers have since brought him along slowly. He will not play in the preseason opener against Denver on Sunday in San Diego.
However, James said it’s been hard to tell during the past few practices that Ball did not play for much of the offseason.
Ball tried to stay off his knee and strengthen it at the start of the offseason, including treating it with platelet-rich plasma injections, before opting for surgery in mid-July. He spent much of his offseason working in the weight room and film room until his knee recovered, returning to full-contact practice Thursday.
Coach Luke Walton said he was “shocked how good he looked” over the previous few days as far as his feel, considering he hadn’t played since his rookie season ended in April.
Ball, who has tweaked his jump shot by not bringing the ball over as much to his left side as he shoots, admitted he was rusty in his first contact practice. But the most important thing, Walton said, is that Ball didn’t suffer any setbacks.
“We’re gonna be patient,” Walton said. “No need to rush it right now. We’ll put minutes restrictions on him as he starts coming back in the preseason. And everything will be, ‘How do you feel?’ the next day, ‘How do you feel?’ that night. As long we keep checking those off and he’s fine, the minutes restrictions will go up and up until we decide to get rid of it altogether.”
“[There’s] nothing with the injury now. It’s just the fact that he hasn’t played in a long time. We want to make sure we bring him back slow.”
While Ball works his way back, the Lakers will not have first-round pick Moe Wagner for the entire preseason. Wagner, the 25th overall pick out of Michigan, is out with a left knee contusion. The Lakers said the center will be re-evaluated after the preseason ends in mid-October.