Insider Sounds Off on ‘Confusion’ Surrounding Bulls’ Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls.

Every update on the Chicago Bulls’ Lonzo Ball signals one step forward or two steps back. The most recent one — coach Billy Donovan’s January 28 comment that Ball is “nowhere near” returning — certainly falls under the latter category.

The Bulls are beyond the point where Ball’s return this season seems feasible, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, and the situation seems confusing for everyone.

“I don’t think they’re lying about it,” Cowley said during his January 31 appearance on “Bernstein & Holmes” on 670 The Score in Chicago. “I think they are perplexed basically as Lonzo is. … And there’s a lot of confusion. Is there a nerve in there that’s damaged? Is it long term? Is it a situation where he’s — just exercising that right that he has to make sure that there is no setbacks with it.”

Lonzo Ball’s Career Not Considered to Be in Jeopardy

Ball has made notable strides in recent weeks even posting videos of himself running on a treadmill (albeit with a noticeable hitch in his stride, which he acknowledged) and dunking a basketball. But he has said that he doesn’t want to rush back.

Even though Ball hasn’t played an NBA game since January 2022 and has had three knee surgeries (the last being in September 2022) since entering the NBA, there doesn’t appear to be much fear that Ball’s career is in jeopardy, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson.

“Sources said the Bulls have some insurance — the amount wasn’t revealed by those sources — on his four-year, $80 million contract if the drastic scenario of him never playing again materialized,” Johnson wrote in a story published January 16. “Ball said he doesn’t ‘have any concern’ about that hypothetical outcome.”

Cowley noted the consistent messaging from the Bulls regarding Ball.

“It’s bad because this is a guy that has never been healthy a full season but he plays,” Cowley said during his radio appearance. “And when he plays, he is an impactful player. He has become a difference-maker just because he is your best two-way player. So this is major. This is a big blow to what their plans were and this is the reason they’re kind of stuck right now, kind of in no man’s land.”

Ball himself has acknowledged that he would eventually run out of runway to make his return this season, though he was still holding out hope.


Bulls Plans Fall Apart Without Ball

Just as the pieces fell in place for the Bulls to assemble the current roster, things appear to be coming undone with the final piece at the top.

“Look, this thing was built specifically – get [Nikola Vucevic], Vooch and Zach will then bring attention,” Cowley said. “It did. DeMar was not going to come here unless it wasn’t Vooch and Zach. Okay. Then Lonzo, Lonzo was not going to come here unless it was Vooch, DeMar, Zach. So the dominoes all fell perfectly for them.

“It’s not like they are hiding something from us,” Cowley said. “They don’t know. Lonzo doesn’t know, his camp doesn’t know, medical doesn’t know . … I’ve heard he’s had third, fourth, fifth, sixth opinions. That they are scouring to find something that makes sense or something that timetables it. So, yeah, that’s not good. I mean, I don’t want to say Brandon Roy here. But, I mean, it’s got the early feeling of Brandon Roy. He attempted to come back and went right back down and a great career, a promising career was ruined. You hope that’s not the case because they did put so much stock in.”

Roy was the sixth-overall pick in 2006 winning rookie of the year, becoming a three-time All-Star, and earning a pair of All-NBA nods. His career was interrupted and ultimately cut short due to microfractures in his knee after just six seasons.