Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball missed the end of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in late January. He was unable to return for the playoffs and had issues ramping back up to return.
According to Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas, it’s still unclear when Ball will return. Speaking on an NBA TV broadcast during a Bulls summer league game, Karnišovas said Ball is “progressing,” but didn’t any specific update.
“He’s progressing. That’s as much as I can say. He’s getting better. Probably not at the speed that we would like. But he’s getting better,” Karnišovas said, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Chicago. “Hopefully, he’s going to be ready for training camp. That’s just our hopes.”
Johnson reports that Ball has dealt with occasional discomfort whenever he ramps up his workload, which is why what was initially a 6-8 week diagnosis last January remains a mystery going into the middle of the summer. Ball’s status looms large as Chicago looks ahead to next season with hopes of building on a sixth-place finish in the East. He’s a key player as a bigger combo guard who can help cover defensively for Demar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, while providing secondary playmaking and off-ball shooting. They don’t have the same ceiling if he’s not right, particularly on defense.
Ball is also only 24 years old. He should be a player still growing and approaching his prime years, which is why the Bulls made a splash to acquire him in a sign-and-trade and sign him to a four-year, $80 million deal. If this knee isn’t fully right now, it casts doubt over that future and what he can bring to the team. Two of Chicago’s offseason moves — signing Goran Dragic and drafting Dalen Terry — certainly seem to indicate that the Bulls are preparing for a world where Ball isn’t ready to start the season.