Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is back up and running, but will it be in time?

Ball hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 14, and after he and the medical staff opted to shut his running program down last week because of pain in his left knee, it looked like he wouldn’t play again this season. Now there’s at least some hope.

SHARE Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is back up and running, but will it be in time?
Lonzo Ball could still have limited minutes in the final games of the Bulls’ regular season.

Lonzo Ball could still have limited minutes in the final games of the Bulls’ regular season.

Marta Lavandier/AP

Guard Lonzo Ball knows the calendar is not on his side.

To his credit, he won’t let that pesky fact deter him.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Ball resumed his running program Thursday. It was very basic, but the hope is it will lead to a return at some point this season.

“I said last week, he’s a driver behind a lot of this,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He really wants to play, but he’s also going to be smart in terms of how he’s feeling, and he’s going to be realistic.

“The doctors will put their heads together, but certainly every day that goes by and time that goes by, you’re moving closer and closer to the end of the season. I have not gotten anything from the doctors that said, ‘Listen, there’s just not enough time; we can’t get him back.’ They’re going to do everything they can to try to get him back.’’

The Bulls have only five regular-season games left. Ball hasn’t played since Jan. 14, when the left knee became too painful to deal with and he opted for surgery to repair the meniscus.

The ongoing issue after the surgery has been a bone bruise, which was the initial red flag and what sidelined him in the first place.

Ball’s rehab was ramped up in late February and early March, but he kept feeling pain whenever he started to sprint and cut. Rather than try to power through it, the rehab process was paused less than two weeks ago.

This will be one more attempt to push it again.

“Obviously with the amount of time that he had to kind of let things calm down, not going to go zero-to-60, there will be a little bit more each day, see how he does,’’ Donovan said. “But that process is going to start now, just to see how he responds. There’s been nothing with what he’s done, even with a little bit of work [Thursday]. I think they’ll be really smart in terms of he had time off to let it calm down, and now incrementally try to build him back up.

“So that will take a little bit of time just to see how he responds once we get him back to a place where we can try to get him sprinting and cutting.’’

Before his injury, Ball was the spark plug for the transition game and playing at an all-defensive level. On top of that, he was shooting a career-best 42.3% from three-point range.

Ball was the perfect kick in the drive-and-kick game for Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, especially with how well he was shooting the corner three, which a lot of defenses have been giving up when they play the Bulls because of all the attention paid to LaVine’s attack game and DeRozan’s midrange prowess.

If Ball can start sprinting and cutting after the pause he took, full contact in practice would come quickly. Then he would get some restricted minutes in games.

“We’ll see if this helps,’’ Donovan said.

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