The Chicago Bulls are going to be without starting point guard Lonzo Ball for the foreseeable future. So much so that they have refused to put a timeline on his return to action once he undergoes what will be the third surgery.
Ball isn’t going to do so either.
“This will be my third surgery, so I don’t really want to rush anything,” he told reporters during his media availability on the first day of training camp.
Originally, Ball was given a timeline of six to eight weeks. Now, following this third surgery, he will be re-evaluated in four to six more weeks. And, during his remote Zoom session, Ball detailed what has turned into a gut-wrenching series of setbacks that put his and the Bulls’ season in question.
Ball: ‘It’s Still Painful’
This next surgery will be to clean up damaged cartilage that remains from the previous two procedures to repair a torn meniscus. During his Media Day availability, Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said that surgery was essentially the final option for Ball after his rehab progressed too slowly with no solution as to why.
Ball spoke of the interference the injury is causing to accomplishing day-to-day tasks.
“I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have no force, and I can’t catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said before later noting the frequency, “It’s every day. Even going up stairs and stuff, it’s still painful.”
The former second-overall pick said that the pain has “surprised” doctors and that he will rehab in Chicago post-operation. He also is not ready to concede the entire 2022-23 season at this point.
That is still up in the air after Los Angeles Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn missed all of last season with a similar bone bruise.
Nunn just declared himself healthy in July, however his injury did not require surgery.
Bulls in no Rush
There is no rush from teammates, even though they know what Ball brings to the table. Zach LaVine shared the strong message he told Ball amid constant dialogue about his injury. He also spoke on what Ball means to the Bulls when he’s on the floor. The Bulls were 22-13 with Ball in the lineup and barely over .500 at 24-23 without him.
“Make sure you’re ready when you are,” LaVine said he told Ball. “Because when you come back we need you. You’re our starting point guard. You’re the cog to our defense – our facilitator.”
Those sentiments echo what has been said about Ball since last season when it was clear the team was missing his impact on both ends of the floor. Ball was their best two-way player, a 42% three-point shooter, and their best playmaker.
They will compete with Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu for Ball’s role, per Billy Donovan. None of them can replace Ball 1-for-1. But they believe they are better equipped to withstand his extended absence for as long as it takes. After all, since this is his third surgery, there is no need to rush a player they still owe $60 million to over the next three years.