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With Terry Rozier injured, LaMelo Ball got his first start for Charlotte

Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 1: LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets dribbles the ball during the game against the Miami Heat on February 1, 2021 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

There have been calls to put LaMelo Ball into the Hornets’ starting lineup for a while — he’s averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 assists a game, his passing has been as advertised and his defense better than expected. But coach James Borego wants to keep the pressure off of Ball and let him develop, so he has stuck with Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham starting.

But with Rozier out Monday due to a sprained right ankle, LaMelo finally got his first NBA start, going against Miami.

Ball struggled in the first half — four points on 1-of-5 shooting — but did dish out four assists.

There will be many starts in Ball’s future, but Charlotte’s plan from the start was not just to hand the rookie the key to the car. Graham and Rozier both can handle playmaking duties, and Gordon Hayward has been a quality shot creator for himself and others. All of it combined has Charlotte in the running for a playoff — or, at least, play-in series — spot. Having Ball play meaningful NBA games as a rookie will mean more than just raw minutes.