Bulls VP Arturas Karnisovas Shares Encouraging Update on $80M Star

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls participates in warmups

News surrounding Chicago Bulls point guard, Lonzo Ball, has been less than upbeat through much of the offseason. But the latest update could go a long way to change the lingering public concern over his ailing knee.

The worry is understandable. Ball appeared in just 35 games this past season. He suffered his second meniscus injury in his right knee requiring surgery and paused his rehab several times.

There was a report from ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan that there was some internal concern over the ‘disturbing’ lack of progress he was experiencing. Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, downplayed that saying his son would be fine.

Then, Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said that his “hope” is Ball will be ready by training camp which sent mixed signals.

Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ message was more positive.

On the Mend

Eversley did say during his draft night media availability that the reports from the sports performance staff were positive. But his reluctance to say whether he expected Ball back by camp, or if he would be able to take the floor today, left room for doubt in public opinion.

Karnisovas joined 670 The Score’s “Mully & Haugh” on June 27 to discuss a variety of topics.

Host Mike Mulligan did not waste time getting to the issue of Ball, though, asking for Karnisovas’ confidence level which remains high.

“To be concerned, I think, it’s my job. But, at the same time, our timeline is to get everyone ready for… training camp. And that still is the timeline. So, he is working diligently to get back. He is improving. As Marc said, our performance staff is going back and forth in L.A. to watch him train. The process is still going on.”

Mullin’s co-host, David Haugh followed that up by asking whether Ball’s health impacted the Bulls in the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23 or how it will affect free agency.

Karnisovas was honest.

“Well, we have to just…Our roster-building process it probably impacts a little bit.”

That just gave Karnisovas a reason to be effusive in his praise of what Ball brought to the team with his presence.

Bulls Missed Ball’s Presence

The Bulls were 27-13 before Ball went out for the rest of the year. They sat in first place in the East and had the third-best record in the entire NBA. After he went out, they posted the East’s seventh-best record and 19th-overall in the league at 19-23.

All of that time without Ball made his impact clear.

“I think we realized how important he was to our success. Looking at this three-point rate, in terms of shooting 8.0 threes per game. That goes away and we’re last in the league on that. We kind of slowed down our game when he went away as well. There’s a lot of things that he impacted. Obviously, he’s 6-foot-7, another guard…One of the best defenders on our team. So, yes, we miss him. But again, all we’re focused on right now is his recovery and hopefully, by September we have everyone healthy.”

Players expressed similar sentiments down the stretch of the regular season with center Nikola Vucevic’s words being among them.

Vucevic has come under fire for his poor defense. He finished with a 112.8 defensive rating on the season, per NBA.com. But it was a 108.7 rating with Ball helping to stop dribble penetration in front of him. After Ball went out, Vucevic’s defensive rating was 116.3.

Trying to Read Between the Lines

Ball’s health is paramount to making Vucevic – and Karnisova’s vision of continuity – work with this current group. His passing opens up a lot for everyone on the team from LaVine and Vucevic to keeping some pressure off of DeMar DeRozan.

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Karnisovas did use “hopefully” when stating their plans for training camp similar to Eversley.

However, the former’s seemed to be more of a general statement as the Bulls also have to monitor Zach LaVine’s recovery from arthroscopic surgery which Karnisovas said is going well as he re-iterated wanting LaVine to be a Bull for a long time.

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