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Lakers' Lonzo Ball will play vs. Mavericks after missing 15 games with knee sprain

After nearly six weeks on the shelf, Lonzo Ball will make his return to the Lakers on Friday night.

After nearly six weeks on the shelf, Lonzo Ball will return to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night against the visiting Dallas Mavericks.



The No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA draft has missed the Lakers’ last 15 games since going down with a sprained left knee. A lot’s happened since Lonzo last suited up in forum blue and gold. His mixtape dropped. He underwent the ceremonial rite of passage of lip-sync-battling his father. He paid no mind as his father laid out an unworkable plan for landing all of his sons on one NBA team in two years’ time.

In actual on-court matters, the Lakers traded for a new point guard while Lonzo was on the shelf. They also went 8-7 without their top draft pick, rising to the middle of the NBA’s pack in offensive efficiency and getting outscored by 1.1 points per 100 possessions — not great, but a healthy tick above their full-season mark of -2.8 points-per-100.

While things haven’t fallen apart in L.A. without Ball on the court, Luke Walton and company have been eager to get him back in the mix after losing him to a sprain on Jan. 11 in an overtime win over (as luck would have it) the Mavericks. At the time Lonzo went down, despite his well-publicized shooting woes, L.A. had gone 15-21 in his 36 starts, and just 2-8 in the 10 games he has missed. According to NBA.com’s stats, the Lakers have been about three points per 100 possessions worse with Lonzo off the floor this season; according to Ben Falk’s numbers at Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers have posted the point differential of a 41-win team in Lonzo’s minutes — in a Western Conference where a .500 mark would put you within hailing distance of the eighth seed — and the differential of a 30-win team when he’s been off the floor.

Ball hasn’t been the ready-made superstar some projected he’d be right off the bat, but he’s still been a useful two-way player and a key piece of what Walton and company are trying to build in Hollywood. The head coach is excited to get his rookie facilitator back, but also urged caution after Lonzo’s lengthy layoff.

“He’s been out six weeks, so it’s more precautionary than anything else,” Walton said, according to Lakers Nation. “He could wake up (Saturday) and feel great and want to play, but it’s also part of our job to protect him from himself. When you’re coming back from an injury that’s held you out that long, and your first set of games is a back-to-back, it just makes sense to not play in them both.”

For Lonzo’s part, he thinks he’ll fit awful well alongside new addition Isaiah Thomas:

That’s why I think it’s going to be fun. Opposites attract. I like to pass, he likes to shoot. So I think we’re going to work well.

How many minutes he’ll be restricted to remains unclear, but after a month and a half on ice, Lonzo’s looking forward to getting warm on the floor at Staples Center again.

“I’ve been out for a while,” Ball said, according to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. “Just to be able to play tonight, especially back home, it’s gonna be great. I don’t know. I’m just going out there and going to play hard.”

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Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@oath.com or follow him on Twitter!