Bulls taking long view regarding Lonzo Ball’s lingering knee issue

Bulls taking long view regarding Lonzo Ball's lingering knee issue

Bulls taking long view regarding Lonzo Ball’s knee issue originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

It’s fluid.

That’s the dominant reaction to Friday’s latest development surrounding Lonzo Ball and his lingering left knee issues, which came to the forefront when ESPN.com reported the Chicago Bulls point guard “is expected to miss training camp and is doubtful for the start of the regular season “Because he continues to experience discomfort following meniscus surgery in January.

In mid-July, NBC Sports Chicago reported a similarly pessimistic picture, saying that Ball’s rehabilitation efforts featured starts and stops and that he occasionally experienced discomfort when he tried to increase his workload.

This was at the same time the last official word on Ball’s status came from the team, with executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas saying on an NBA TV broadcast of a summer league game that Ball is “getting better — probably not at the speed that we would like. But he’s getting better.”

Lately, though, NBC Sports Chicago provided two slightly more upbeat updates during tapings of the Bulls Talk Podcast on Ball, who originally was supposed to return from his procedure in six to eight weeks before eventually missing the rest of the season and the playoffs and vowing in his exit meeting with reporters to spend the offseason visiting specialists to get to the root of his issues.

That’s because the Bulls are playing the long game on Ball, whom Karnišovas pursued aggressively enough in the 2021 offseason that the team forfeited a second-round pick when the NBA ruled it held premature discussions with a representative in advance of the execution of his sign- and trade agreement.

Ball, who signed a four-year, $80 million deal, proved his value to the Bulls with a stellar first 35 games before, first, a bout with COVID-19 and then the knee discomfort led to his season ending.

Ball provided valuable floor spacing by shooting a career-high 42.3 percent from 3-point range on high volume of 7.4 attempts per game. He revved the Bulls’ transition attack by pushing the ball upcourt, either by dribble or, often, pass. He also revved the Bulls’ transition attack by wreaking havoc defensively, averaging a career-high 1.8 steals and posting over 3 deflections per game. Paired with Alex Caruso, Ball helped the Bulls’ point-of-attack defense become stout.

There is no denying that if Ball misses any significant time this upcoming season, it’s a major blow to management’s hope for improved health and core continuity to revive the Eastern Conference-leading attack that the Bulls enjoyed as late as Feb. 25 last season.

But the Bulls, who have worked in concert with Ball’s specialists this offseason, remain confident that Ball will continue to progress. The knee, which also underwent a procedure in 2018 when Ball played for the Los Angeles Lakers, is reportedly structurally sound. It’s the bone bruise that predated the January meniscus tear that has bedeviled Ball throughout his rehabilitation.

The Bulls signed Ball for four seasons. He doesn’t turn 25 until October. And the Bulls not only added depth at the point guard position when it signed veteran Goran Dragić in free agency, it kept Coby White despite fielding trade offers that didn’t move the needle for management. Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu also will prominently play into the backcourt rotation. Rookie Dalen Terry could perhaps force his way in, particularly if Ball remains sidelined.

In a perfect world for the Bulls, Ball’s progress speeds up and he’s out there by the Oct. 19 season opener in Miami. Fluid situations aren’t perfect, but the Bulls remain confident in their big-picture look at the backcourt.

Click here to follow the Bulls Talk Podcast.

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