For his part, Ball, who suffered a knee injury in January of the 2021-22 season and has been sidelined ever since, feels for the Bulls’ front office; the same front office that was intrigued enough about the prospect of adding him that they got tagged with tampering charges.
“I feel bad just for the GM,” Ball said on the “From The Point Podcast by Trae Young” on August 20. “I feel like they made the perfect team around me. And I felt like I was involved, and that was the most I’ve ever been involved in an organization. And I finally got the perfect team, that I felt, to fit my game and played my way, and really just do what I wanted to do.”
The Bulls played like a different team before Ball’s injury.
They sat atop the Eastern Conference standings with the league’s fifth-best offensive rating when Ball went down.
Since then, the Bulls are 59-65 and went from a first-round exit from the playoffs in 2021-22 to the 24th-ranked offense and missing the postseason entirely this past season despite executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas setting a higher bar.
“It’s gonna be a big what if,” Ball continued. “That injury – I’m still going through it right now – but that one messed me up early. Just because I feel like we really had a chance and never got to see what it was.”
Ball, 25, is heading into Year 3 of a four-year $80 million contract with a $21.4 million player option for next season.
The Bulls got an exemption for his salary in 2023-24 but his future remains murky at best.
Lonzo Ball Admits Initial Confusion Around Injury
“When I first got hurt, we didn’t really know what it was. I’ve seen all type of different doctors and stuff, and I was kind of just going up and down,” Ball said. “And that was really hard for me because I just didn’t know what the next day was going to be like. And, at least now, I got the surgery, we got a plan moving forward, we’ve been on plan, I’m on track.”
Ball said he is taking the recovery from his “big” ligament transplant surgery “day-by-day” noting that it is a “long process” and that he hopes this is his last procedure.
He was initially given a six-to-eight-week timeline for recovery that will now surpass two years.
“I mean, s***, I wish I never got injured, to be honest,” Ball said. “I wouldn’t want to come back. But that’s just what’s in front of me, and I just got to tackle it head-on. And whenever that time comes, I’m gonna be blessed to be back out there doing what I love.”
Lonzo Ball’s Injury Thwarted Bulls’ Plans
The Bulls were aggressive putting the core of this roster together. They were linked to Ball since the 2020-21 season and were found to have made impermissible contact with him prior to agreeing to a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans to land him, costing themselves a second-round pick for their infraction which they forfeited this year.
Bulls general manager Marc Eversley admitted that Ball’s injury disrupted their plans.
“I think it’s presented challenges on both sides,” Eversley said, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic on August 21. “He’s just a unique player. And he was a terrific complement to Zach (LaVine), DeMar (DeRozan) and [Nikola Vucevic] as we envisioned this roster.”
No one wants Ball back on the floor than he does.
“I always just loved playing basketball,” said Ball. “So it’s just basically something that got taken away from me. It’s gonna be a whole new joy again. I’m gonna be hella happy to be back out there. But I never took the game for granted so, for me, it’s just giving your love back.”