Retired Blazers Star Brandon Roy Sends Sobering Message to Bulls’ Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls.

If anyone can relate to what injured Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball is going through it’s former Portland Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft who retired for good in 2013 after a series of knee injuries.

Roy’s case has been cited as a sobering reminder of what could happen with Ball.

“[Ball] has to be realistic with himself and what he’s going to be able to do,” Roy told 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 first suffered a torn meniscus in January of 2022 and was supposed to miss up to eight weeks following surgery. That surgery left loose cartilage that caused soreness and some nerve damage, ultimately leading the former No. 2 overall pick in Ball to ligament replacement.

No player has ever made a full recovery and returned to the NBA after similar operations.

Ball has detailed how tough it has been going through such an arduous and lengthy recovery. His attempts have previously stalled out at any attempt to ramp up his level of activity, though that is still an improvement over his end-of-season press conference following the 2021-22 season when he described not even being able to walk up stairs or bend his knee.

“It’s okay to not be 110% Lonzo Ball,” Roy said. “It’s ok to be one day 80%, then one day 70%, and then one day 60%, because you are young and you should do it as long as you possibly can.”

Lonzo Ball ‘Confident’ in Ligament Replacement

“My main focus has been on returning to the court and getting to a place where I can rejoin my teammates,” Ball said in a statement released via the Bulls’ official website on March 16. “This has been a frustrating process, but I’m confident these next steps are the best path forward. The support of my family, friends, fans, and medical staff throughout my recovery is what keeps me moving forward. I can’t wait to get back to what I love doing most – playing basketball.”

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arutras Karnisovas has likewise refrained from going too far in either direction when discussing Ball even with talk that he could miss most if not all of next season.

And, even when he does return, Roy thinks it may look a little bit different, encouraging Ball to consider altering his game.

“He should start putting his attention and efforts into things that are going to maximize his mind and not his body,” Roy told Hicks “As hard as it may seem, continue to try to be patient and don’t feel rushed…[Ball] is a young kid and he has a lifetime ahead to think about what he wants to do next or move on. Be selfish and try to get yourself back to playing basketball.”

Roy cited 17-year veteran Andre Miller got by with gile rather than athleticism.

While never really an explosive athlete, Ball’s lateral agility has helped him become one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. It is fair to wonder how a third surgery in the last two years – and fourth since he entered the league – will affect that.

The Bulls ‘Have Put Everything’ Into Lonzo Ball’s Return

Ball is still owed $41.8 million over the next two seasons with a $21.4 million player option for the 2024-25 season. The Bulls would have to apply for and be granted relief from that commitment, explained Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

“To qualify for the [Disabled Player Exception], an NBA-appointed physician or panel must find Ball is “substantially more likely than not to be unable to play through the following June 15.” In that event, the Bulls would be able to sign a free agent or trade for a player in the final year of a contract who makes up to the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception.”

Without the player on the floor or the means to otherwise improve the roster, the Bulls are left in a holding pattern.

League sources doubt he can fix their holes, per Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney.

“They are not going to make a move for a point guard, that has not been in the pipeline for them at all,” an Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy Sports. “They have pretty much put everything into the idea that Lonzo is coming back”