EL SEGUNDO — The Lakers without Lonzo Ball is like the Rolling Stones without Mick, “Game of Thrones” without dragons, Trader Joe’s without floral shirts.
They just aren’t the same.
For 10 days, a span that encapsulated three preseason games and a week’s worth of practices, the Lakers were without the thing that made them unique. On Thursday, Ball finally returned to the practice court.
He sprinted alongside his teammates and laughed as he heaved half-court shots with fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma. He did everything but participate in the five-on-five scrimmage that closed practice.
“Felt good,” Ball said. “Obviously still a little bit of discomfort but I’m happy to be out here for the most part (of practice).”
Ball and his coach, Luke Walton, still do not know whether Ball has recovered in time to play in Friday’s preseason finale against the Clippers.
Thursday’s practice marked the most activity Ball had done since spraining his ankle on Oct. 2 against Denver.
“A lot of (whether he plays Friday) will depend on how he feels when he wakes up,” Walton said. “I’m sure he’s going to be sore later today. We’ll see if there’s any swelling in the morning. There’s not really an answer to be had until tomorrow.”
After doing light drills with assistant coach Miles Simon on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ball said “nothing has been wrong” with his ankle. The injury, initially described as “mild,” swelled up and restricted Ball’s lateral movement.
“It has only been a week but feels a lot longer than that,” he said. “I’m obviously excited to get back on the court.”
While Ball was sidelined, the Lakers made do with backups Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso at point guard, a combination that helped them to a win over Sacramento on Sunday in Las Vegas.
But the Lakers were missing the intangibles that come with having Ball on the floor.
“The thing that makes him special,” Walton said. “That’s the ability to make everyone a threat on the court at all times. Tyler and A.C. have done a nice job filling in, but that’s a special skill he has. We missed that.”
If Ball does not play Friday against the Clippers, he will have nearly a week to get ready for the team’s regular-season opener on Oct. 19, against Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
WEAR WITH ALL
The Lakers welcomed back a familiar face on Thursday. Former UCLA star Travis Wear was added to the roster, a move that likely signals his return to the Lakers’ development league affiliate, renamed the South Bay Lakers.
He averaged 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds with the then-Defenders last season, and contributed 7.9 points and 3.9 rebounds to the Lakers’ summer league entry that won the tournament championship in Las Vegas in July.
He also participated in Lakers training camp last fall.
With Wear on board, the Lakers’ roster stands at 19 players. Wear could be a candidate for the team’s remaining two-way contract.
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