On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers received a giant injury boost when the team announced that starting point guard Lonzo Ball and starting center Brook Lopez had both been cleared to return to practice with both sharing a "questionable" status for Wednesday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Ball sat out five games due to a shoulder sprain suffered during the Lakers' 95-93 defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 23, 2017. The Lakers went on to lose all five games without the point guard. Ball's absence was felt on both ends of the court, as the 20-year-old has been far better than advertised on the defensive side of the ball.
Lopez, meanwhile, suffered a "moderate" ankle sprain back on Dec. 18, 2017. The team has tried different options in place of Lopez, specifically Julius Randle and Andrew Bogut, with up and down success. The team's record in Lopez's absence is seven defeats and one victory. That lone victory came with Bogut starting at center and Randle only featuring for a season-low eight minutes.
While both Lopez and Ball have been cleared to practice, the Lakers are not practicing on Tuesday, which is customary following a back-to-back. On Wednesday, the team will go through shootaround, but that activity is more about game planning and getting shots up, rather than testing strength and endurance.
Based on conversations the medical staff and the coaching staff have on Wednesday, both players may sit out Wednesday's high profile game against Paul George, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in favor of practicing on Thursday and returning on Friday night at Staples Center against the Charlotte Hornets.
Ultimately, Lakers coach Luke Walton will make the final call on Wednesday, and the coach has a habit of not sharing player status until the final possible moment. Both Lopez and Ball expect to be game-time decisions if Walton stays true to form.