The signs had been pointing to Lonzo Ball not playing again for the Bulls this season, and it looks like that worst-case scenario is indeed coming to fruition. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said before Tuesday’s game against the Bucks that Ball is still feeling discomfort in his knee when he tries to ramp things up for a return to play, and he noted there will be a final decision made on the guard’s status in the coming days.
Ball hasn’t played since Jan. 14 because of a partially torn left meniscus and a bone bruise in the same knee. The guard underwent surgery two weeks later and was initially given a timetable of 6-8 weeks. However, the knee just hasn’t responded well to the ramp-up process, with that bone bruise injury in addition to the meniscus tear proving tricky. The Bulls even recently tried shutting Ball down from running for a 10-day period, to no avail.
While this news was expected at this point, it doesn’t make it any less of a bummer. Ball was having an excellent season after the Bulls made him a priority this past summer (you could say he was too much of a priority), bringing dynamic transition play, excellent passing, elite 3-point shooting and disruptive defense to the fold. He’s arguably the one true two-way player on this roster, and his presence has been sorely missed as the Bulls have fallen off a cliff on both ends and fallen down the standings in the process. Any hope of competing in a playoff series is now likely dead, though it was probably dead regardless.
Ball finishes this season with averages of 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks. He shot a career-high 42.3% overall and 42.3% from 3-point range on 7.4 attempts from deep per game.
The worry now is if this will be a long-term issue. Ball does have a history of injuries, undergoing surgery on this same knee in 2018 and never playing more than 63 games in a season. As good as he is, it’s a legitimate concern.