The Chicago Bulls are 5-4 despite having to overcome several factors including a lack of three-point shooting. There are also questions about their defense which has started fast but still shows all-too-familiar gaps in perimeter play.
Not many players can boast the ability to cover up those deficiencies on both ends of the floor all by themselves.
But the Bulls’ starting point guard, Lonzo Ball, certainly can.
Unfortunately for both Ball and the Bulls, he is sidelined until further notice recovering from a knee injury suffered in January that has required two separate surgeries to address pain during everyday activities.
LaVine: Ball is Bulls’ “Glue”
Ball can be described in many ways – a savvy playmaker – especially in transition – a solid perimeter defender, and a deadly three-point shooter. For a team that needs all of those things, teammate Zach LaVine had another term to describe what Ball brings to the table.
“I can’t wait until he gets back because when he gets the ball, he looks up and throws it ahead,” LaVine told the Inside the NBA crew before the Bulls’ 108-99 win over the Brooklyn Nets. He’s the glue to our team offensively and defensively.” (h/t Michael Mulford/Bulls Wire)
To LaVine’s point, the Bulls ranked sixth in transition offense last season, per Cleaning The Glass, despite missing Ball for most of the year, and rank 21st so far this season.
They have gotten strong play out of Ayo Dosunmu but the second-year guard is not Ball.
Ball shot 42% from three last season. That was on top of his duties as a playmaker and forming one of the most formidable defensive backcourts in the NBA alongside reserve Alex Caruso who has also battled injuries.
The expectation is that Ball will be out at least into the new year and the Bulls can’t get him back soon enough.
But, at least as far as LaVine is concerned, they aren’t rushing him back before he’s ready.
“I just told him, ‘Make sure you’re ready when you are,” LaVine said of Ball on media day. “Because when you come back we need you. You’re our starting point guard. You’re the cog to our defense – our facilitator. And, overall we like him in the locker room. He’s a great guy.”
LaVine Sympathizes With Ball
The two-time All-Star LaVine has been vocal in his support for Ball as he navigates this trying time in his career – he has had three surgeries on the same knee and has appeared in at least 60 games just once; a trend he is unlikely to buck this season.
Despite appearing in 67 games last year while battling through his injury, LaVine has had his health be the subject of constant scrutiny especially as he issued the Bulls’ first two games.
He is well aware of the impact that can have on a player.
“It’s tough, man, because he worked so hard,” LaVine said. “He’s in a good place right now. He’s getting better. And, I know guys have been talking about it all summer but let’s understand, he wants to be out here more than anybody else. And, you know, nobody wants to be injured. And it’s tough…having people talk about it each and every day.”
LaVine reiterated those sentiments to the Inside crew adding that Ball has been in the gym every day.
No Update on Ball
Ball recently entered a two-week window in which the Bulls hoped to devise a plan for his eventual return to action this season. He has been in Chicago rehabbing at the team’s facilities for some time but this would be a big step in his recovery.
It was previously reported that the pain Ball was experiencing flared up whenever he tried to ramp up his activity.
A plan for his return would be a good sign that the latest procedure was successful. Alas, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan was mum on the guard’s status at the last check primarily due to a lack of new information.
The Bulls will have to continue biding their time until he is healthy again.