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Lonzo Ball expects to return to Lakers lineup Feb. 23 against Dallas

Lonzo Ball expects to return to Lakers lineup Feb. 23 against Dallas
Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball signs autographs before the team's against the Bulls in Chicago last month. (Matt Marton / Associated Press)

Lonzo Ball expects to play Feb. 23, the Lakers' first game after the All-Star break.

"I practiced yesterday in full, but it's at a point where I can play but it still hurts a little bit," Ball said after a Lakers shootaround in New Orleans. "So they want to just get that out and take this week, and we are playing good right now so no need to rush it."

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Ball sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Jan. 13 against the Dallas Mavericks. He returned to the game after the initial injury, which became much more painful the next morning.

After the Lakers' game at Minnesota on Thursday, Ball will have missed 15 games because of the injury. So far the Lakers are 8-6 without him during that span, including Wednesday's loss to the Pelicans.

Ball also said he will not play in the NBA's rising stars game on Friday at Staples Center. The game will feature players in their first and second years in the league. The players are divided into teams of international players and Americans. Sacramento rookie De'Aaron Fox will replace Ball in the game.

Although he won't be participating in any official All-Star activities this weekend, Ball will keep busy. He is releasing a mixtape this weekend and his family will have a pop-up shop for Big Baller Brand. His father, LaVar, will return from Lithuania for the shop, while his brothers and mother will remain overseas as the younger siblings' season continues.

Kuzma starts hot

Kyle Kuzma made the first five shots he attempted Wednesday against the Pelicans. He finished with 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including three three-pointers.

It was Kuzma's 16th game this season with 20 or more points, the most games by any Lakers rookie since Magic Johnson had 32 during the 1979-80 season.

More for Thomas

When Luke Walton reviewed the film from Saturday's game against the Mavericks, he paid close attention to what point guard Isaiah Thomas offered defensively. On Wednesday, Walton said he was impressed.

"It looked really good," Walton said. "We like to switch a lot. I was interested to see how his switch defense looked on tape. Besides one bucket I think [Kyle] Collinsworth maybe scored? Every other time he got a stop he was switching. He was fighting, making people take fadeaway shots. Even got switched on Dirk [Nowitzki] a couple times. That was very promising to see."

Walton's plan heading into the Pelicans game was to open up the playbook a little bit more for Thomas.

"We'll put some stuff in that we think he'll be good at," Walton said. "It's tough, though. When we have plays that we run for [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope], there's a point guard to get KCP the ball. He's the point guard so it's not just teaching him in those sets, it's also having another player be out there that we're asking to run the point while we bring Isaiah off the screen. It's not that complicated but it takes time like everything else."

The plan was cut short, though, when Thomas got ejected after 4:49 of playing time.

TONIGHT

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AT MINNESOTA

When: 6 p.m. Thursday.

On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 710, 1330

Update: The Timberwolves rank fourth in the Western Conference, and are coming off a loss to the West-leading Houston Rockets.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli

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