It would appear Chicago Bulls fans are caught in a back-and-forth of conflicting information. The Bulls, in their pursuit of roster continuity, are banking on the health of a group that has shown to have some concerns in that regard.
None more prevalent than starting point guard Lonzo Ball. The 2021 offseason acquisition appeared in just 35 games before a torn meniscus took him out of action for the season.
But it was a pre-existing bone bruise, not the tear, that has continued to plague Ball.
His status for training camp and even the beginning of the regular season has been the latest point of contention in this long road to recovery. Initially expected to sideline Ball for 6-to-8 weeks, the injury threatens to approach nine months – and maybe even up to a full year – if he makes it into the regular season.
Shelbourne: Ball ‘Expected’ to Miss Start of Season
ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne joined NBA Today on September 7 and the topic of the NBA’s biggest question mark came up. Shelbourne offered up the Bulls citing their surprising start last season and the health issues that dog them now in regards to Ball.
“They thought they were going to have Lonzo Ball back. But, from what I’m told, he’s going to miss training camp and the beginning of the regular season because that knee that he had surgery on in January just – the knee is structurally sound. But he has the type of recovery and injury that – he’s been to a ton of specialists where they’ve all tried to figure out what going on with him – but he’s still experiencing pain and discomfort in that leg.”
Shelbourne called the situation “mysterious” but confirmed Ball was back with the team.
“He’s in Chicago right now. They’re looking at him, going to do a separate evaluation of him and decide how long they think he’s going to be out, or at least get some kind of a plan for him coming back.”
Shelbourne then re-iterated the timeline of the injury and the expectation that Ball would indeed miss the beginning of the regular season.
Johnson: Ruling Ball Out ‘Premature’
NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson offered some slight pushback on a previous report from Shelbourne’s colleague, Jamal Collier, who reported a similar report of Ball’s absence extending into the regular season.
Collier had previously speculated that the Bulls could slow-play Ball’s return to action to ensure that he is 100% healthy.
Johnson offered a bit of additional context to some of his earlier reporting.
“The reason I portrayed…some optimism,” Johnson explained during the “Bulls Talk Podcast” on September 6, “is I had heard that some of his workouts were progressing in a linear fashion, without any stops. When I checked in off this ESPN.com report what I was told is…nothing new has developed. What has happened is he just doesn’t have answers for why he’s feeling the pain occasionally and why it flares up.”
Johnson added that the surgery Ball had is considered to have been successful and that declaring him completely out of camp at this point is “premature”.
This could also mean that the beginning of the season is in play.
Bulls Can Withstand Ball’s Absence
The Bulls’ offseason was not specifically geared around Ball despite it effectively protecting them in the event that his injury continues to linger. And, while it’s already lasted eight months to this point, it could last into the next calendar year.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn missed all of last season dealing with a bone bruise in his knee that was supposed to only knock him out of commission for three weeks.
A similar timeline would put Ball’s return sometime in January.
The Bulls could very well be in the lower rungs of the Eastern Conference by that point. But they’ve maintained their deep stable of guards and added veteran Goran Dragic and rookie Dalen Terry to it.
If their planning works out, they could be in for the inverse of what we saw last season where they start slow but roar to the finish line as they get fully healthy.