Bulls’ Billy Donovan Provides Benchmark Lonzo Ball Update Ahead of Deadline

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told reporters that doctors have cleared injured point guard Lonzo Ball to take the next steps in his rehabilitation from the knee injury that has robbed him of the bulk of the last two seasons.

Ball underwent a third, and relatively rare surgical procedure to correct the issue and was already ruled out for the entire 2023-24 season.

The news comes at a critical juncture for the front office.

“The Bulls received a disabled player exception of $10.2 million for Ball’s absence this season that expires on Monday [March 10],” NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson wrote on March 9. “That obviously will go unused.”

Donovan maintains that he is more concerned about Ball from a personal standpoint rather than a professional one.

Ball, 26, is in the third year of a four-year, $80 million contract.

He has a $21.4 million player option for next season. The Bulls could apply to have that wiped off their books if Ball is deemed unfit to resume play next season. That may be a non-starter after Donovan’s update.

Especially with the team entering play against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 9 maintaining a strong hold on a spot in the Play-In Tournament.

With 18 games remaining, the Bulls could have used that exception to upgrade the roster.

Bulls HC Billy Donovan: Lonzo Ball ‘Looks Good Moving’

Ball has moved on to the highly-anticipated next portion of his rehabilitation: running and cutting.

“He’s starting to run. I know we talked about last time, Some of the workouts had been, I think, really, really positive in terms of running, cutting, jumping, doing those things, that he’s progressed into that, responded well,” Donovan said via the Chicago Tribune’s Julia Poe on March 9. “Some of the things that the guys have shown me is he looks good moving.”

This comes not long after reports surfaced of internal concerns Ball had yet to reach this point.

Per Johnson, the next step for Ball will be moving on the contact.

“At some point, we’ll have a conversation about what the next step is contact-wise for him,” Johnson said, per Johnson. “He’s had 2-1/2 years of no contact.”

Ball has maintained that he will return to the court, and has even met speculation to the contrary head-on. His back-and-forth with ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith was the most notable. But Ball continues to show he is progressing.

Lonzo Ball Shared Encouraging Workout Video

Ball shared a video of himself making some low-speed cuts on the court in the wake of reports the Bulls had concerns about his knee.

Bulls players have made no secret about what he meant to the team when he was healthy. The Bulls have pushed continuity ever since Ball’s initial injury threw a wrench in their 2021-22 campaign.

They might be closer to being rewarded for that persistence than it seemed to start the season.

However, not using any portion of the exception while remaining 1.1 million below the luxury tax, per Spotrac, undermines much of the positivity from this update or the Bulls’ recent play.