The vague nature of all the Lonzo Ball knee injuries updates this summer proved ominous. ESPN’s Jamal Collier and Ramona Shelburne reported Friday that the point guard is “expected to miss training camp and is doubtful for the start of the regular season due to ongoing pain and discomfort.”
Ball underwent surgery for a torn left meniscus in late January and was initially given a six to eight week recovery period. However, he did not return and was eventually ruled out for the remainder of the season in April. Although the knee is said to be “structurally healthy,” it still experiences pain when trying to ramp up basketball activity. That’s because of a nagging bone bruise that’s making this whole recovery difficult.
It’s unclear if Ball will need another procedure to repair this injury. The fact that he still feels pain when increasing his activity and has seen multiple knee specialists to date is nothing short of disastrous for Chicago.
NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson tries to paint a sunnier picture, noting recently “two slightly more upbeat updates” and insisting that the Bulls are just “playing the long game” while “confident Ball will keep progressing”. is true and he’s not missing too much time, but it’s hard to have much optimism about this situation right now, given how things have turned out.
Another extended absence from Ball to start the 2022-23 season is the last thing the Bulls need. They missed him very much at the end of last season as he is one of the few two way players on the roster and is the glue that brings this team together. He is the team’s best passer (5.1 assists per game) and is key to Chicago’s transition game. He is one of the best 3-point shooters on the roster (42.3% on 7.4 attempts per game). His perimeter defense is relentless (1.8 steals per game) and helps cover up weaker defenders. He is a solid rebounder for his position (5.4 blocks per game).
This is all why the Bulls Ball had been targeted two trade deadlines last season and were front and center in line to acquire it last season despite previous injuries concerns, even being awarded a second-round pick following an NBA investigation into his four-year, $80 million sign-and-trade. The 24-year-old underwent surgery on the same meniscus in 2018 and has never played more than 63 games in a season. Last season he played only 35.
Chicago does have a lot of depth in the backcourt. Ayo Dosunmu gained a lot of experience as a rookie due to Ball’s injury, and he’s hoping to make a jump after putting in a lot of work this off-season. Alex Caruso should be in full health after an injury plagued 2021-22. Coby White has not been traded and is in a contract year. The Goran Dragic signing makes a little more sense now, and maybe rookie Dalen Terry can help in minutes.
Still, none of these players can mimic Ball’s versatile abilities. In an Eastern Conference that only gets better with Donovan Mitchell heading for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls may find themselves falling behind and getting stuck in mediocrity.
Chicago still has to hope that Ball is back as soon as possible and that everything else goes well. There will be a lot of crossbreeding at the Advocate Center and among the fan base.