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Lonzo Ball uncertain when he'll return from MCL sprain

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Lonzo Ballhad planned to test his knee on Wednesday, but his return from a sprained left MCL remains uncertain.

Ball is hopeful that he will play soon, but his return to action and his status for the Rising Stars Challenge game during All-Star weekend remains uncertain. The Los Angeles Lakershad anticipated having the rookie point guard ramp up the speed of his noncontact activity while also testing his lateral movement more on Wednesday afternoon. Ball said entering that workout that he had been unable to jump or do full sprints.

Ball will miss his 12th straight game when the Lakers host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. The No. 2 overall draft pick said he had not done much lateral movement entering Wednesday's workout and admitted that he aggravated the injury last week when he tried increasing his workload during a workout in Toronto.

"This is the most games I've ever missed in my whole life," said Ball, who talked for the first time about his injury since Jan. 14, a day after he suffered the injury during a game in Dallas. "... I didn't think it was going to be this serious, to be honest. After I did it, I felt it, but it went away and didn't come back 'til the next day -- but now we're here."

"There was never a timeline for it," he added. "... I thought it was going to be dealt with quicker, but obviously my body didn't react to it that well. I should be back hopefully soon."

Ball has been shooting. The only lateral movement he had done prior to Wednesday was dribbling a little bit to his left and right and shooting pull-up jumpers. He wanted to test his knee with some "one-dribble, two-dribble pullups [and] maybe some slides for defense" to see where and when he feels pain.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton said that Ball must be able to do full-speed, noncontact drills first and see how his knee responds the day after before he can return to practice. And Ball has to practice before he will play.

The Lakers play at Dallas on Saturday before having a couple of days off in front of a back-to-back next week at New Orleans and Minnesota entering the All-Star break.

The Lakers said a week and a half ago that the sprained MCL injury typically would take one to three weeks of recovery time. This Saturday will mark four weeks since Ball suffered the injury.

Walton said that if Ball is ready to return just before the All-Star break, the team will have a discussion about whether to give the rookie another week to rest to be cautious.

Whenever Ball feels discomfort in his knee during a workout, the Lakers will stop the rookie and have him go back to doing what he can that is pain-free. Last week in Toronto, Ball felt "something" when he tried to do more, and the team backed the rookie off a bit.

"I wouldn't call it a setback," Ball said. "It was just kind of to a point where I knew if I did that, it was going to hurt. Definitely past that point now, so it's a good thing."

Ball said he wants to play in the Rising Stars Challenge but isn't sure how his knee will feel by the Feb. 16 event.

"I don't know," Ball said. "... Hopefully that day comes when I can play, and hopefully it's before the All-Star break. It would be my first time ever experiencing All-Star."

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