Bulls’ $80 Million Star Makes Definitive Statement on Future

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls will be without starting point guard Lonzo Ball for the entirety of the 2023-24 season.

But the former No. 2 overall pick of the Los Angeles Lakers insists his career isn’t over.

Attending the Invest Fest 2023 event in Atlanta, Ball spoke on a number of topics, most notably touching on his future in the wake of a recent war of words with ESPN personality, Stephen A. Smith.

“I’m going to play again,” Ball said, via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic on August 27. “The outside noise doesn’t bother me. The Stephen A. thing, he has a wide platform. And, to me, I just don’t appreciate someone putting out fake news like that. Especially someone of his stature that can touch a lot of people. It’s just putting out the wrong thing. But that’s besides the point.”

Smith said that he was hearing through his sources that Ball was “unable to stand from a sitting position, to which Ball took offense.

The Bulls lead guard posted a video of himself doing just that, though it did not convince Smith.

Ball has dealt with several setbacks during his recovery from a knee injury he suffered in January of 2022 that sidelined him after 35 games and kept him out all of last season.

“You have to realize that it’s just part of life,” he said. “Life is not easy. And, if you want to get the most out of it, you gotta put yourself forward, and put your best foot forward. So, for me, even when I get knocked down, you gotta get back up every time if you want to keep going. You can always quit and take the easy way out and hide and go to the side. But for me, if you want to get to a place that I want to get to, you just got to get back up, and dust off, and keep going.”

It is a third, less common procedure – a ligament transplant surgery – that will keep him off the court next season, though even that has been met with some skepticism from critics such as Smith, and even supporters.

Former NBA star Brandon Roy cautioned Ball about rushing back to the court.

“He has to be realistic with himself and what he’s going to be able to do,” Roy said, per Joshua M. Hicks of The Bigs on May 16 at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “It might not be at the level of an All-Star point guard but there are some things he can adjust to his game and he can still help a team.”

Ball has been consistent in saying he will return to the court in due time and has said he won’t rush back because he hopes this is the final surgery he has to endure.

“For me, I know what I got to do to get back,” Ball said at Invest Fest. “And I’m just on a path, doing what I got to do every day. Taking it step by step. I don’t look too far ahead. But I know in my near future that I will be back on the court, for sure.”

Bulls Proceeding Accordingly

The Bulls and, in particular, head coach Billy Donovan have remained publicly supportive of Ball during his ordeal. But the front office was burned by their hopes of a potential return last season, holding off on making the appropriate moves to replace him adequately.

“I think, a lot of times it’s easy to look at it through the lens of, ‘Gosh, I wish he was out here playing for us,’ Donovan said, per NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider Johnson on February 22. “But to me, I take a totally different perspective of just what he has had to go through. That’s the thing that really bothers me. ”

This offseason was different as Chicago re-signed both Ayo Dosunmu and fellow guard, Coby White.

They also signed Jevon Carter in free agency.

“Adding Jevon Carter and re-signing Coby White were big moves for us,” an anonymous Bulls staffer said, per Keith Smith of Spotrac on July 14. “Jevon will bring some of the defense we lost at the lead guard spot with Lonzo (Ball) out. And he can shoot too. Coby has come a long way. We think he could win Sixth Man of the Year. He’s been that good as a bench scorer.”

Chicago was granted a Disabled Player Exception for this season with the NBA agreeing that he won’t be healthy enough to play. But his future beyond that with the organization remains unclear with two years and nearly $42 million remaining on his four-year, $80 million contract.

The final year of Ball’s contract is a $21-plus million player option.

Lonzo Ball Defends Failed Family Venture

The Bulls star spoke about the “cultural impact” of his family’s failed “Big Baller Brand” shoe, per Mayberry. Ball entered the league with his “own signature shoe”, as his father, LaVar Ball, proudly touted.

But Ball has since admitted that the shoes were defective and switched from the brand long ago.

He did, however, defend the idea behind the line during his appearance on the “From The Point Podcast by Trae Young” on August 21.

Invest Fest 2023 has featured figures from various industries this summer, ranging from actors to tech moguls with several prominent NBA figures attending including NBPA president and New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum and even Ball’s agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, as also one of the speakers.

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