Bulls, Lonzo Ball Make Final Decision on Knee Injury

Lonzo Ball, Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball, Bulls

At least the Bulls can head into the coming months knowing that, eventually, Lonzo Ball will be back. What they can’t know is how much his current injury to the meniscus in his left knee will affect him over the length of his NBA career.

After some failed non-surgical options, much hand-wringing and talk of second opinions, the Bulls announced on Thursday that Ball would undergo surgery on the knee and is slated to miss six-to-eight weeks for recovery.

Or, as the team put it on its website: “Following an initial period of rest and targeted intervention, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to return in 6-8 weeks.”

On the positive side of that timetable, that would have Ball back on the floor before the first weekend in March. On the more cautious side, we would not see Ball until March 18. Either way, if the timetable holds, there will be plenty of time for Ball to get back into tip-top shape before the postseason begins.

Ball’s Past Knee Operation a Concern?

The larger concern here, though, is that Ball will now have had two operations on the same meniscus in his left knee. The first came in July 2018 after his rookie season with the Lakers, and his recovery time in that case was fairly quick—Ball was healthy for training camp and pronounced “100%” by late September of that year.

The relatively quick recovery time, though, indicates that doctors chose to remove the damaged part of Ball’s meniscus rather than repair it. A meniscus repair would take more than six months to fully heal.

With the coming operation, it appears doctors again are looking to pull out some damaged meniscus rather than stitch it together—if this were a repair, he would be out for the remainder of the year. In both cases, the decision to remove rather than repair could be simply a matter of the torn section of the meniscus being too small to rescue.

But the problem is that Ball is losing another portion of his meniscus, which puts his knee, potentially, at risk for further injury. The meniscus serves as the cushion between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) so, the less meniscus that is there, the greater the risk for bone-on-bone contact.

One orthopedics doctor, Dr. Raj Brar (who does video explainers for the Lakers website, SilverScreenandRoll.com) tweeted about Ball’s injury: “Very likely a partial meniscectomy where they remove that piece of irritated tissue. 2nd time he’s had that procedure on that left knee. Key unknown is whether this and previous was on the lateral or medial side (which come with different outcomes).”

Bulls Can Cover for Ball at Point Guard

For the short-term, that likely will not be an issue for Ball. He should be able to return this season and the good news for the Bulls is that they’re in good position to fill his minutes.

Chicago has had solid seasons so far from second-year guard Coby White (12.7 points, 46.2% shooting) and rookie Ayo Donsunmu (7.2 points, 55.4% shooting). Neither is close to the playmaker that Ball is, but the Bulls are blessed with excellent passers at nearly every position with five players averaging 3.5 assists or better. Veteran Alex Caruso, too, can fill in at point guard.

That should be enough to get Ball through his recovery time. In the long term, the knee will be worth watching.

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