The Chicago Bulls are not expected to get Lonzo Ball back until near or after the turn of the calendar year. Until then, they will make do with a combination of Ayo Dosunmu starting and Goran Dragic off of the bench to make up for his absence.
Each option brings something different but also has holes in their game that Ball does not.
There is simply no replacing the 6-foot-6 guard so the Bulls have to hope for a return to full health – something they have been doing since he went down in mid-January. Fortunately, the latest update sheds new light on what was ailing the 24-year-old Ball and his outlook going forward.
Surgery Caused Nerve Issue for Ball
During an appearance on the “Ball Facts” podcast – a show dedicated to coverage of Lonzo and his brothers – LaVar Ball suggested that it was a nerve issue caused by some loose cartilage in his son’s knee that was the source of his discomfort
“They finally got in there and they did his stuff right. He had something that was – some of the debris was caught up with a nerve or something like that in his leg. It wouldn’t allow him to bend it or whatever. He was giving much pain but he got all that situated now…I just came back from seeing my boy to make sure he’s good, stitches is out.”
Ball detailed the misery the pain in his knee was causing him, not just in keeping him off of the basketball court. He was unable to walk up the stairs without experiencing pain he told reporters in his availability following media day.
What was originally supposed to only knock him out of the lineup for six-to-eight weeks is now threatening to span an entire year on the optimistic side.
Billy Donovan said he has to operate is if Ball would be out for the entire season.
That was the fear before the surgery but there was an air of optimism after the procedure which was intended to clean up that loose cartilage.
LaVar’s Message to Lonzo
Despite the optimistic outlook on his son’s progress, LaVar does not want to see his son get back on the floor too soon. He has previously suggested the Bulls tried to rush him back too soon from the initial procedure leading to the latest issue. While he is now suggesting that it was the procedure itself, his message to his son remains the same.
“Hey, don’t let these guys try to convince you to come back in four-to-six weeks…Slow down. Do it your way, Zo, and come back healthy as hell.”
Lonzo has appeared in at least 60 games just once in his five-year career. He was having a banner year when he went down averaging 13.0 points on 57.5% true shooting and 42.3% from beyond the arc; the latter two being career bests.
LaVine, who has had two knee surgeries of his own including this offseason, encouraged Ball.
“I just told him, ‘Make sure you’re ready when you are. Because when you come back we need you. You’re our starting point guard. You’re the cog to our defense – our facilitator. And, overall we like him in the locker room. He’s a great guy. So, he’s in good spirits. I think he’s working as hard as he can and he’s going to keep doing that. He’ll be back when he’s ready.”
The two-time All-Star is right, the Bulls need him. But he is also right to make it clear that Ball should not try to come back before he is all the way ready. Fortunately, they are taking a long view with his health after trading for and signing him to a four-year, $80 million contract
Ball’s Impact Clear
With Lonzo, the Bulls were 22-13 and they were barely above .500 at 24-23 without him. What’s more, Ball posted a defensive rating in the 96th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass, and formed one of the premier defensive backcourts in the NBA last season.
The sooner the Bulls get Ball back the better.
But that should happen only once he is completely ready which could be even closer to the postseason than New Year’s despite the positive tone coming out of his camp.