“Right now, the next step for Lonzo Ball is figuring out strategies where he can try to recover and find a way to get out back on the floor,” reported Charania. “If those options that he’s looking at don’t work, I think there definitely is some internal fear within the Bulls: how much does this threaten his career long-term?”
Charania’s colleague, retired NBA veteran Chandler Parsons, shared his personal experience with what he feels is the same injury.
“This is tough and this hits me close to home,” Parsons said. “I went through the same exact thing where I had a freak accident kind of spill where I kind of banged my knee on the ground. And I got an MRI and I had a dime-sized piece of cartilage that chipped off the medial part of my knee. And it was basically called a chondral lesion where it was said to not get any worse — to just rest and strengthen the areas around it. Everything that Lonzo Ball has been going through. And…I had come back for the playoffs that year and I had landed again and, sure enough, blew out my knee. Got a different MRI and that dime-sized cartilage went to a quarter-sized cartilage. And that’s when you start talking about micro-fracture surgery, which is what I had, which is extremely hard to come back from.”
Parsons’ career was effectively ended in a car crash in 2020. But before that, he suffered a devastating knee injury in 2017, the third of his career and less than one year into a four-year, $94 million pact with the Memphis Grizzlies.
He had averaged 68 appearances per season making no fewer than 51 starts in five seasons to that point in his career.
The 6-foot-10 forward made no more than 36 appearances in his final four seasons.
Former NBA star Brandon Roy also had his career cut short after six seasons (seven years) due to a degenerative knee condition that cut his comeback attempt after a season of semi-retirement short; just five games with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Roy went from three-time All-Star to out of the league within three years after multiple knee surgeries including arthroscopic repair in 2011.
Both Roy and former Bulls point guard Derrick Rose underwent meniscus procedures, the latter after suffering a torn ACL earlier in his career.
Chandler Parsons: Lonzo Ball’s Injury Could Lead to ‘Trickle Effect’
“It’s a tough spot because there’s nothing you can do,” Parsons said. “You can fix an ACL, you can fix a meniscus. You can’t really re-grow cartilage back like that. And what happens is, it’s so jagged and they’ll smooth it. And from that, it’s a trickle effect.”
Ball has made at least 60 appearances just once though he has at least 50 games three times in his career. Still, the latest procedure in September was the third known surgery the 25-year-old has had on the left knee since he entered the league in 2017-18.
But even that – which Parsons noted was not fully tested – comes with drawbacks.
“Even if he does go the cartilage re-growth process, this is another year to two years that he’s out,” Parsons said. “Now he’s out of the league for three years. That’s hard to come back from.”
Bulls Need to Make Contingency Plans
“I talked to Rich Paul,” said Tristan Thompson on ESPN’s ‘NBA Today’ on February 21. “His injury is unique. They’ve seen all the doctors across the country. Everyone’s touched his knee, examined it. This is a unique injury that they have never seen before.”
If Thompson’s assertion is accurate, the Bulls may be in luck with a more positive outcome than Parsons’ still possible.
They still need to figure out yet another plan at point guard.
Ball is in the second year of a four-year, $80 million contract with a $21-plus million player option for the final season in 2025. As it stands, there is only one way the Bulls are getting relief from the rest of that deal.
They signed veteran Patrick Beverley to try and light a fire under this current underachieving group but he is far from a solution to their problem which is the absence of a lead guard. That won’t come until the offseason and, if the words of executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas are any indication, changes will be coming.