Finally, a potential turn for the positive around Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball. At this point in the summer, Bulls Nation has settled on a few things. Chief among them is that this front office, led by vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, wants to get a good look at the healthy version of this group.
The Bulls’ projected starting lineup saw just 63 minutes over five games together. We never got to see if they could match the versatility of some lineups due to injuries to key players.
And this summer, a threat looms to rob them of that again, at least to begin the new season.
That threat has been the starting point guard or, more specifically, his balky knee. The injury has kept him out since the backend of the regular season and there have been hints it could linger into next season as well.
Change in Tone on Ball
Bulls brass has been vague throughout the offseason on the status of Ball and his bone bruise suffered along with a torn meniscus. The latter injury was able to be corrected via surgery. But there is no surgery for the bruise which has been slow to heal.
Ball acknowledged during his exit interview that he was at a standstill in his rehab process after experiencing pain whenever he tried to ramp up.
The buzzword has been “hope” in some variation in regards to his being ready to start the year.
But NBC Sports Chicago’s Bull insider K.C. Johnson shared what he said was “not a headline” during a recent episode of the “Bulls Talk Podcast”. Given what we have heard about Ball all offseason, however, it is hard to dismiss it as anything else.
“It’s a fluid situation. And the last two times I’ve checked on it, I’ve heard way more positive than negative. Now, I’m not saying that means he’s out there opening night. I’m not saying that he’s playing all 82 [games]. What I’m saying is the skepticism that was earlier in the offseason has moved a little bit toward the optimism side.”
Johnson had previously doubled down on a report from ESPN’s Jamal Collier in which he also shared optimism being expressed by Ball’s camp.
Collier also speculated that a scenario could exist where the Bulls “slow play” Ball’s return.
Bulls Need Ball
Johnson reiterated that the situation is “fluid” before marveling at what was first thought to be a 6-to-8 week recovery potentially lasting nearly a year by the time the season rolls around. Even if he isn’t going to be ready right out of the gates, the Bulls need Ball available for the back end of the season and, even more, the postseason.
They did well to protect themselves by signing Goran Dragic.
But the combination of defense and scoring that Ball brought is nearly impossible to replace with one player on the Bulls’ roster.
Only 16 players shot over 42% from downtown while also having a defensive rating of 111 or better. Of those 16, just six made double-digit starts this past season with just three of them being full-time starters.
None of those players averaged more attempts from beyond the arc that the Bulls’ floor general.