Bulls get unexpectedly positive injury update on Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball, who signed with the team in the 2021 offseason and has played just 35 games in a Bulls uniform, had a recent breakthrough in his injury recovery.

Chicago Bulls Media Day
Chicago Bulls Media Day / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

For the first time in a while, the Chicago Bulls got some positive injury news.

A couple of days after head coach Billy Donovan said Nikola Vucevic would be out for at least a week with a groin injury, he could give a positive injury update on a player many may have forgotten: Lonzo Ball.

The news is the most positive update to come so far in the case of Ball, who last played in an NBA game on Jan. 14, 2022, his first season with the team, before suffering a torn left meniscus. He signed with the team in the 2021 summer on a four-year, $80 million deal as a coveted free agent to add to the star trio of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Vucevic.

The new core proved to be successful together, starting the 2021-22 campaign with a 27-12 record prior to the Ball injury. They ended that season as the sixth seed and were bounced in the first round of the postseason by the Milwaukee Bucks. Since then, the Bulls haven't made the playoffs.
Ball was supposed to come back the next season, but multiple setbacks in his recovery forced him to miss the entire 2022-23 season, and before this one started it was doubtful he would play at all. He's had two additional surgeries since the first one.

Donovan said Ball will start running in January as part of his rehab in Los Angeles, which is a huge step for someone that a year ago was having difficulties with walking. So far, he's been limited to just stationary shooting and some light mobility exercises. However, he's remained optimistic in eventually returning to the court, and this news has him on the right track to do that.

What does this Lonzo Ball news mean for the Chicago Bulls?

For the present, nothing. It's still extremely doubtful he plays this season. He'll just start running in January, three months before the regular season ends, and the Bulls might be on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned. Even if they're competing in them, it's unlikely they put Ball, someone who's had three surgeries and by that point hasn't played an NBA game in two years, in a pressure situation like that.

Long term, however, it gets interesting. The Bulls signed Ball after a strong career-year at 23 years old to be their point guard of the future, and though he could still be that at 26, the situation has gotten different in the position. Because of the injury, the Bulls were forced to load up on guards, and they now have a lot of good ones in Alex Caruso, Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, and Jevon Carter.

Caruso might be traded, but even then the situation is tougher for Ball to return as the starter, especially with White playing as well as he has this season and with Dosunmu showing promise. Furthermore, Ball has a player option ($21 million) for next season that we will likely accept, which leaves him in an interesting position: he's going to be an impending free agent if he returns next season, and will have to balance between coming along slowly after two years off, and showing off his skills for free agency. It's unlikely he gets a second big deal the next summer, unless he comes back and plays at an All-Star level, but it's an important season to show the NBA world he can still contribute.

He averaged 13 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks and shot 42 percent from three in the 35 games he played in 2021-22 while being a top perimeter defender and one of the best playmakers in transition, and most of all a big part in their strong start. But, this league is about what a player has done lately. Once again, like when he was touted as the savior of the Los Angeles Lakers when he was drafted, he will have many eyes on him, only this time (hopefully) there will be more rooting for him. Regardless, he will once again have to prove he can be a contributor to winning.

Currently, though, this is just a good moment for a human being outside of the court, and that's all it needs to be. Whenever Ball is able to play in the NBA again, if he's given the opportunity and wants to do it, the most important thing is his health on a daily basis, and for him to have the ability to live a healthy life. That's the most important thing.

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