Rozier sprained his right ankle while running up-court late in the first half of Saturday’s 126-114 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Rookie LaMelo Ball replaced him in the second half, and had his best NBA game so far.
Rozier has started all 20 Hornets games this season at shooting guard. He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 18.6 points per game, behind forward Gordon Hayward’s 23.2 ppg.
With Rozier ruled out Saturday, Hornets coach James Borrego went with rookie Ball as the second-half starter, playing with fellow guard Devonte Graham. Ball had his best game to date, with a career-high 27 points, plus nine assists and five rebounds.
In terms of efficiency — which has been an issue for Ball — he made 8 of 10 shots from the field, was 9 of 9 from the foul line and had one turnover in 31 minutes.
Borrego praised Ball’s play enthusiastically after the game.
“He’s fearless, he’s aggressive, he’s attacking the paint, he’s getting to the free-throw line, he’s making plays for others,” Borrego said. “He’s a special kid, he’s only getting better.”
Borrego wouldn’t address Saturday whether Ball would start against the Heat if Rozier couldn’t play. Borrego said he didn’t want to speculate without knowing Rozier’s status.
The Hornets didn’t practice Sunday before flying to Miami, so there was no additional media availability.
Borrego has chosen to play Ball, the third overall draft pick, off the bench so far this season, not breaking up the Rozier-Devonte Graham backcourt. There has been a clamor among Hornets fans to get Ball into the starting lineup, and Ball’s father, LaVar, has complained publicly that his son should be starting.
LaVar Ball told TMZ Sports recently, “My boys are not freakin’ role players! They superstars! Let them do what they do!” referring to LaMelo and older brothers Lonzo (New Orleans Pelicans) and LiAngelo (waived in the preseason by the Detroit Pistons).
Borrego has varied Ball’s minutes based on performance. For instance, Ball played just 17 minutes against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 22 because he committed five turnovers in that game.
The Observer asked Ball the next day if he was surprised he’s not starting yet, and he said he wasn’t.
“No. It’s basketball. It’s a whole chemistry” thing,” Ball replied. “I’m coming in (off the bench). It’s not something where I’ve been here four years, or something like that. It’s just basketball.”