Injured Bulls Star Lonzo Ball Details Current Stage of Recovery

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a game.

It has been nearly a full year since the Chicago Bulls saw Lonzo Ball take the floor for a basketball game and it could be close to another year before they get him back in action.

The Bulls have struggled in his absence, going 32-41 since he last took the floor for them, including going 13-18 so far this season.

They are looking to string together wins after a report emerged of a pair of locker room blowups aimed at two-time All-Star Zach LaVine whose decision-making and defense came into question – both are things that were aided by Ball’s presence last season when the Bulls took the NBA by storm.

Ahead of Chicago’s eventual 110-108 win over the Atlanta Hawks, Ball broke his silence.

Ball Speaks For Himself

“I’m finally seeing some improvement, which is nice to see,” Ball noted of his progress over the last couple of weeks, per NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer. “It’s still not obviously where I want to be. But it’s definitely positive light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ball underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in late January. The procedure resulted in loose cartilage that led to Ball needing another procedure which he underwent in late September.

All told, Ball has had three surgeries on the same knee.

His father, LaVar Ball, contends that the initial procedure (in 2018) was botched and has said that the Bulls tried to rush him back too fast. During media day, the younger Ball shared the harrowing details of his recovery journey.

“It’s been a crazy journey, been a crazy therapy,” Ball told Schaefer. “Everything is just trying to get back on the court. Unfortunately, I’m not there yet, but we’re still working on everything. “Day by day, I’m trying to remain positive and keep getting better, even if it’s an inch better every day. Just try not to move backwards.”

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan recently provided a similar update on his beleaguered point guard, also pointing out that there are no new concerns with the knee.

Of course, that does not mean Ball is out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot.

Ball Still In Pain

“A lot of mobility stuff, trying to work through the pain,” he said of his rehab process. “The pain is there, pretty sure it’s gonna be there. Just figuring out how we can get through it to a point I can produce on the court.”

Some have compared Ball’s situation to that of Derrick Rose and Brandon Roy.

Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history, saw a series of freak knee injuries cut his prime short. He has gone on to have a 10-year career after the injury but has never been the same player he was before the injury. But Ball is not as reliant on athleticism (nor as athletic) as Rose was then or even in the years immediately after his first injury.

Ball’s style of play is more similar to Roy’s by default in that sense. Unfortunately for Ball and the Bulls, Roy’s career was cut short due to a degenerative condition and he retired in 2011.

Roy did attempt to make a comeback two years later with the Minnesota Timberwolves but only appeared in five games and retired for good as a 28-year-old three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection.

No one has suggested that Ball is dealing with anything degenerative.

But the ongoing pain and lack of a true plan or timeline for his return have to be both baffling and frustrating for a Bulls team that could use its lynchpin.

Bigger Issues To Address

The report of the Bulls’ dysfunction leading to locker room blowups is a far greater concern than the prospect of getting Ball back on the floor this season, a prospect made even less likely by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski who reported it was “no guarantee” Ball plays this season.

Many of the issues the Bulls have struggled to overcome fall right in Ball’s wheelhouse.

“I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard for me,” Ball conceded. “Really hard for me. “I think we have a great team, and I know some things I can do to help this team out. But unfortunately, I’m not on the court right now.”

From perimeter defense to three-point shooting and playmaking, Ball was the engine behind this Bulls offense that has looked like it did before his arrival in his absence.

But they need to figure out how to co-exist whiteout him since it sounds like a return is far away.