The skidding Kings (5-8) will catch a bit of a break Sunday as New Orleans Pelicans (4-7) point guard Lonzo Ball will miss the game due to bilateral knee tendinopathy, which has forced him to sit out the last two games.
After a slow start to his NBA career and a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers, Ball has found his footing in New Orleans and is having another solid season. In nine games, he's averaging 12.4 points on 39.4 percent shooting from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point range. He's also averaging 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 33.4 minutes.
Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters Saturday that Ball didn't practice, but the point guard could return sometime next week.
“He did not practice today, but he is getting closer,” Van Gundy said Saturday. “He said he feels a lot better. He’s really working hard on strengthening the muscles around that knee, which seems to really help. I think he’s pretty optimistic about being able to come back at full strength, and pretty optimistic that it's not in the distant, distant future. I think we’re talking more days to a week than weeks.”
Ball and Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox forever will be linked because they both were selected in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Ball went No. 2 overall to the Lakers, while the Kings swiped up the speedy Fox at No. 5.
In a recent episode of Showtime's "All The Smoke" podcast, Fox addressed the pre-draft process in 2017, and mentioned that he only worked out for three teams: The Lakers, Suns and Kings. But more than three years later, he wishes he hadn't auditioned for the Lakers, likely because everyone knew Ball was going to be picked by Los Angeles.
"Crazy thing is, I kinda knew I was going five, because the way it went, Philly was trading up to one to get [Markelle Fultz], Lonzo was going two no matter what," Fox told former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. "I knew Boston didn't need a point guard. They actually had Kyrie [Irving] at the time, so they took Jayson [Tatum]. I actually canceled my workout in Phoenix because they had [Brandon Knight], [Eric Bledsoe], Tyler Ulis at the time. They had three point guards, so I'm like 'Why the f--k would I go to Phoenix?'
"So I canceled that workout and then Sac was there. I'm like 'Man, you know what it would be like to turn around a franchise like that? That would be crazy.' So, I was excited to go there. I didn't work out for Orlando, who was after that or Chicago. I worked out for three teams, the Lakers, which I probably shouldn't have worked out for, that really was a waste of time, Phoenix and then Sac."
With Ball out Sunday, fans will have to wait until at least Monday, Feb. 1 to see him face Fox in a showdown of 2017 first-round picks.