Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball making slow progress in knee rehab

According to coach Billy Donovan, Ball still is dealing with pain in his surgically repaired left knee. There have been no setbacks, but the concern continues.

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Lonzo Ball’s knee rehab has been a slow process.

Lonzo Ball’s knee rehab has been a slow process.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

PHOENIX — Bulls coach Billy Donovan would have loved nothing more than to give a positive update about point guard Lonzo Ball on Wednesday.

Unfortunately for him, there just aren’t a whole lot of those right now.

While Ball has had no setbacks in his recovery from another surgery on his left knee in September, his progress has remained slow.

Enough so that Donovan said: ‘‘To be honest with you, there’s a lot of people that have tried to wrap their head around this in terms of trying to figure it out.’’

The ‘‘figuring out’’ part is the pain that Ball still is experiencing in the knee as the Bulls’ medical staff tries to move him along through rehabilitation.

Last month, the update was that Ball was working out on a treadmill in the water. But a source told the Sun-Times that when the Bulls tried to get him beyond that and into the next steps, the pain persisted.

It’s not exactly what the Bulls were hoping for when they acquired Ball in a sign-and-trade with the Pelicans. He hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 14 last season.

‘‘It’s not like I can give you any report, [such as], ‘Hey, he’s running, he’s cutting, he’s jumping, he’s doing individual skill work, the next step is we’ve got to get him some contact,’ ’’ Donovan said. ‘‘To be honest with you, we’re not even close to that.’’

Donovan, however, said the Bulls don’t have a set date in mind when they will shut Ball down for the season. As he was last season, Ball is 100% committed to try to return to the court as soon as possible, even with the slow progress.

‘‘I haven’t been a part of any discussions like that at all,’’ Donovan said when discussing shutting Ball down. ‘‘It’s been more about how to get him back on the floor to where he’s playing. We haven’t gotten that far.

‘‘I feel bad for him because I feel like he’s worked hard to try and get back. He’s a young guy, he’s a really good player, and you hate to see a guy — I guess it’s another month or so, right, that’s coming up on a year? I hurt for him because he’s a great guy and loves playing. And when something like that is taken away from a guy, you feel bad for him.’’

While Ayo Dosunmu has done a solid job trying to fill Ball’s spot in the starting lineup, he can’t duplicate what Ball does. Few can. Not only is Ball the Bulls’ best two-way player, causing havoc on the defensive end, but his ability to rebound and push the ball up the floor is missed.

‘‘He has his mind, his heart, everything set on getting himself back this year,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘But there’s no timetable. That’s where he’s at mentally. That’s what he’s working toward. I have no timetable for it. But if it gets so far into the year, there’s that [option of shutting him down]. But there’s also a piece to a guy being out and getting some games under his belt to getting back to playing.’’

Contract talk

Donovan still was discussing the secret contract extension he signed during the preseason and had an honest answer when asked if he thought he deserved one.

‘‘I don’t know if anybody deserves anything,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I never have. I always looked at it the other way. I looked at it as being fortunate to have an opportunity to go to work every single day.’’

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