Bulls Star Admits Harsh Potential Reality About Future

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls looks on from the bench.

The Chicago Bulls have managed in the year-plus that starting point guard Lonzo Ball last played in a game for them. There has been some good and plenty of bad along the way but they have managed well enough to remain in playoff contention more than halfway through the regular season.

For whatever faults he may have in the Bulls’ 20-24 record, head coach Billy Donovan deserves credit for not using Ball’s absence as a crutch when trying to explain the group’s follies going the opposite direction from the jump and assuming the oft-injured Ball would not return in 2022-23.

It’s a harsh reality that has seemed like a possible and even likely outcome for some time and even more so once Ball had to undergo a second surgery in September to remove cartilage.

Even Ball himself has had to reconcile with what appears more likely by the day.

Lonzo Ball Accepts Harsh Reality, Remains Hopeful

“Naturally, yea,” Ball responded when asked whether or not he would eventually run out of sufficient time to ramp up into game shape after being cleared medically. “Obviously, everything’s on a time schedule. But I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up.”

The Bulls entered the season cautiously optimistic they would have Ball back in the fold around the new year following that second procedure of 2022 and third overall.

That timeline was shifted to February and, soon after, the reality was brought to national television when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there were “no guarantees” Ball would return this season. The Bulls’ situation at the time – five games below .500 and outside even the Play-In Tournament – certainly did little to make it appealing enough to rush back.

Ball also said he was not going to rush back since he had undergone multiple procedures.

“I have really no timetables,” Ball said. “Going day-by-day. Trying to just do more every week, pretty much. Loading up the workload. Like I said, I’m finally moving around again so that’s nice. But I don’t really have a timetable for anything.”

Ball was given a 6-to-8-week timetable following his procedure in January and 4-to-6 weeks for re-evaluation in September. Donovan has noted before that Ball was making slow progress but progress nonetheless while the guard posted videos of himself dunking and running on a treadmill to his Instagram account.

“The process is starting to be able to do something,” Ball said. “Getting back on the court a little bit, starting to run on the treadmill a little bit, obviously. There’s still discomfort and some hitching in there. But it’s just the process of getting everything started.”

Donovan noted that those were “things he couldn’t do” just weeks ago, per 670 The Score‘s Cody Westerlund.

Painful Road to Recovery

Donovan’s metric for Ball has always been running and cutting at full speed with no pain or as little pain as possible based on some of Ball’s comments. Until he can do that, we won’t see him even ramp up for a possible return.

So, when does Ball think that may be?

“I’m not sure,” he conceded. “That was my first time running in pretty much a year. So, just for me, it was positive to be able to get on the treadmill and do something. Even though it’s not my normal gait. Obviously, I got to work through that. There’s going to be pain there just because of the surgeries and get it back in the move of things.”

Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, said the first surgery in 2022 caused issues with a nerve in his son’s surgically repaired knee.

The younger Ball has previously said that he is pretty sure there will “always” be pain there.

“I’m just trying to stay positive and keep moving forward,” Ball said. “I mean, yeah, it’s tough. But I got a lot of good people around me helping me out every day. And it’s just about getting back on the court. I mean, I can’t focus on the negative right now.”

Bulls Keeping Things Interesting

The Bulls snapped a three-game skid with their 132-118 win over the Golden State Warriors and have won four of their last seven to cling to their playoff lives. It might not quite be a resurgence just yet but they are certainly keeping thighs interesting.

So, would Ball get back on the floor if he gets healthy and it made sense?

“Yeah, I would love to play. I would never count that out. It’s a long year, I feel we’re finally hitting our stride right now. So, hopefully, I can keep getting better, team keep getting better and we can be up.”

It’s up to the Bulls to see if they can test Ball’s resolve starting with their international bout with the Detroit Pistons in Paris, France.