Last offseason, the Chicago Bulls completely reshaped their roster. They added DeMar DeRozan, who finished top-10 in MVP voting, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso. They started off the season hot but ended up falling all the way down to the sixth seed in the East.
They were swiftly eliminated in Round 1 by the Milwaukee Bucks, but so far this offseason, they have made some additions to their team in an attempt to bounce back next year. They signed Andre Drummond as the team’s backup center and added veteran Goran Dragic for guard depth.
However, according to Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report, the Bulls won’t be able to accomplish any of their goals without Ball, who has missed significant time due to a knee injury. His timetable for a return is still unknown, and that’s close to the worst-case scenario for Chicago.
“Yikes. Whatever Chicago’s goals are for the 2022-23 campaign—given the age and cost of its core, it better be contending for a title or something in that vicinity—they are unreachable without a healthy Ball,” Buckley explained. “The Bulls can’t develop or deal for a replacement, so they’re left only hoping for the best.”
Ball signed with the Bulls last summer but only appeared in 35 games for them last year. And according to Vice President Artūras Karnišovas, the Bulls still have hope that he can be back in time for training camp.
Bulls Hope for Ball Return By Training Camp
During rookie Dalen Terry’s introductory press conference, Karnišovas took a moment to provide an update on Ball’s condition. He said that Chicago hopes Ball will be back for training camp, but that’s just their hopes at the moment.
“He’s progressing. That’s as much as I can say. He’s getting better. Probably not at the speed that we would like. But he’s getting better,” Karnišovas explained. “Hopefully, he’s going to be ready for training camp. That’s just our hopes.”
In his 35 games with the Bulls last year, Ball was crucial to the team’s success. His prowess as a 3&D ball-handler is an area of the game that Chicago desperately missed when he went down with an injury.
Last year, Ball averaged 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists on 42.3% shooting from the field and 42.3% shooting from distance in his limited appearances.
KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago put Ball’s recovery timeline into perspective even more in an article he wrote on July 12.
Ball Injury Update: ‘Sobering Stuff’
Johnson took the time to stress just how long Ball’s recovery process has taken. If he doesn’t return by training camp, which is the team’s hope, it will have been eight months since he had surgery.
“Given that training camp is over two months away and Ball originally was supposed to return in six to eight weeks from a late-January arthroscopic procedure to repair a torn left meniscus, this is sobering stuff. If Ball isn’t ready by training camp, that would mark eight months since his surgery,” Johnson wrote.
Ball is crucial to the Bulls’ success as a team, and if his recovery process bleeds into next season, they could be in trouble.