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The Bulls handled Lonzo Ball’s injury news as they do most things: like cowards

a plea for a more transparent and realistic assessment of the injured point guard

Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Bulls do so little, especially during the season, that it must be hard for them to navigate anything approaching a ‘news dump’. But earlier this week they did have some slight cover in a new addition to make the perfunctory news that Lonzo Ball will not be returning to play this season.

Of course, it wasn’t news given in any way that would open themselves up to questions. It was merely a press release, an extremely-poorly-worded one at that, where it was as if Shams wrote it himself instead of the person who put his name to it (Arturas Karnisovas).

[funny to see the Bulls official URL include ‘lonzo-ball-injury-update-4’, oy...]

Then everyone who covered the team tweeted out something like “much expected, mmhmm, very expected”, as if commenting “FIRST!” on a 2008 blog post.

Yes, it absolutely was expected. But these same reporters - many of whom are employed by the team or a broadcast partner - didn’t press Karnisovas at all when he made his absolutely disastrous once-a-season appearance in front of them. This was after a whole season of not being available for comment on the situation, forcing Billy Donovan to give them anything when it came to Ball.

He was at least asked, but this was all Karnisovas said:

I don’t know, regarding [Lonzo Ball]...he’s making small improvements but we’re still going to have more information for you post-All Star Weekend

Everyone who heard this then stated the obvious: this means Lonzo wasn’t coming back, because there was no realistic return timetable with it being so late in the season.

But that was only stated to the fans. Nothing further was asked of Karnisovas then, with the preface “since you’re essentially confirming Lonzo isn’t coming back this year...” and the implication that THEY knew already that he wasn’t coming back.

When did they know, and were they being realistic at all? Did they know by January 15, when they could’ve filed for a Disabled Player Exception to help their cap flexibility? How did they orient their trade deadline talks around that knowledge?

These are all unasked, and will get buried in the offseason because we’ll have moved onto the next thing. And one of those next things is how to treat Lonzo Ball’s career and contract with the Bulls.

It’s somewhat worrisome that the press release says “the focus will continue to be on a full return for the 2023-24 season”. Because no matter how Ball’s recovery progresses, if it does at all, he will never have a “full” return. I think we can all say “as expected” to this: no back-to-backs, minutes load management, ramping up to competition, etc.

Arturas shouldn’t be able to continue to say he’s waiting and seeing when it comes to Lonzo. He needs to talk about how his evaluation, now, impacts his team building this summer. If asking me, I think he can’t rely on any return, ever, for Lonzo Ball. That puts him in a huge bind:

1) work towards defining Ball’s injury as career-ending, and get the two years remaining of his contract off their cap

2) operate as a team $20M over the luxury tax, treating Ball’s contract as dead money and any return as a bonus for the team, but not affecting your ability to make additions like he’s never playing again

Hope something like that gets asked of Arturas Karnisovas when this season finally receives its mercy-killing and he’s obligated to show is face again.