Bulls Star Unlikely to Meet Goals This Season: Report

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls waits.

The Chicago Bulls’ quiet summer in terms of free agency and trades means they don’t have many questions. We know who the top guys are and, for the most part, we know the bench rotation save for who comes in when on a given night.

Their biggest, and perhaps only question mark may not have an answer, or, at least not one that satisfies anyone.

That is when will Lonzo Ball return?

The answer was supposed to be 6-to-8 weeks but we are well beyond that timeline and looking at his absence extending into the regular season. While the Bulls have to sort out who will start in his absence, they might also want to consider what this injury could mean for Ball’s long-term outlook.

Ball May ‘Never’ Be the Same

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes that Ball’s status is one of the biggest questions this team faces with the season drawing nearer. He reiterates his previous reporting that Ball is experiencing intermittent pain during his rehabilitation. This is the same issue that caused him to pause his comeback during the season and remain that way through his exit interview.

“Ball has visited specialists to try to get to the bottom of intermittent, yet persistent, discomfort in his left knee,” reports Johnson. “He has rehabilitated. He has rested. And while progress has occurred, it hasn’t been linear. Ball’s situation is fluid.”

The only updates from the team have been that his knee is “structurally sound” and they “hope” to get him back sooner than later.

Johnson adds the lack of a concrete timeline is because they don’t know when Ball will return.

Well, in an entry for The Times of Northwest Indiana, sports medicine columnist John Doherty disputes their claim.

“Bulls fans should wonder the same about one joint higher for guard Lonzo Ball. Two weeks ago, ESPN reported he “is expected to miss training camp and doubtful for the start of the regular season because of lingering pain and discomfort following meniscus surgery on his left knee in January.”

ESPN’s source insisted, though, that the knee is “structurally sound.”

Well, not really. It can’t be. A torn piece of meniscal cartilage was repaired — for the second time. So, it is no longer pristine. The major ligaments may still be intact but the knee will never be the same.”

Doherty goes on to describe the differences in timelines between a meniscus removal – which Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, says he insisted upon the first time in 2018 – and a repair.

The former has a recovery time of about 4-to-6 weeks while the latter 4-to-6 months.

Ball’s Future Outlook Grim

“Ball may very well recover to the point that he is able to resume playing. But, as is clearly the case with [Dak] Prescott and the Cowboys, Ball and the Bulls should expect intermittent issues to persist as long as he continues playing.”

The Bulls gave Ball a four-year, $80 million contract in a sign-and-trade that ultimately also cost them a second-round pick.

His impact on this team when healthy has been well-noted.

It would be a shame if the Bulls had to make further contingency plans outside of free agent addition Goran Dragic, veteran Alex Caruso, and Ayo Dosunmu for the 24-year-old in the event he is never able to make 60-plus appearances again. And, according to Doherty, things are more likely to get worse before they get better.

“Regardless of the many medical advances recently made in the treatment of sports-related injuries, there is still no miracle cure for those that damage joint cartilage. When they occur, premature degenerative arthritis almost always follows.”

This would be close to a worst-case scenario for the Bulls who would be hard-pressed to replace the defense, passing, and three-point shot-making that Ball brings even if they had more time than this offseason.

Limited draft capital and tradeable contracts mean they need for Doherty’s from-a-distance assessment to be off and for Ball to make a full recovery.

Ball’s Goal Unlikely

As Johnson notes, Ball said he wanted to get healthy with a goal of playing in all 82 regular season games next year. Johnson declares that goal to be unlikely and it likely didn’t take this injury to reach that conclusion.

Not only were there just five players to achieve that last season, but Ball has averaged 50.4 appearances in his five-year NBA career.

At this point, Bulls fans will likely just take a return date but this issue just won’t go away.

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