Bulls officially rule guard Lonzo Ball out for rest of season

With the latest setback in Ball’s rehab Tuesday, the organization made the decision to shut him and his injured left knee down. The focus now will be on getting him 100% healthy for the 2022-23 season.

SHARE Bulls officially rule guard Lonzo Ball out for rest of season
The Bulls’ Lonzo Ball is officially done for this season.

The Bulls’ Lonzo Ball is officially done for this season.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

The Bulls once again were left playing the what-if game.

When closing out games with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball on the court, they had a 12-5 record.

What if injuries hadn’t limited that to such a small sample size?

The Bulls would’ve been a projected 57-win team, which would’ve been the best in the Eastern Conference by far.

On Wednesday, the Bulls officially ruled Ball (left knee) out for the rest of the season, including the playoffs.

“He was great for us,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “I did not have any prior relationship or dealings with Lonzo at all. I thought he played really, really well on both ends of the floor. He was a two-way player. I give him a lot of credit from where he was as a rookie shooting the ball. I almost wasn’t sure he could develop into the shooter he’s become. I think that’s a credit to the work that he’s put in.

“The way we play pace-wise, his advance passing, and then he and [Caruso] out there at the point of attack, they were always good on pick-and-roll.’’

Ball, who hasn’t played since Jan. 14, was given every opportunity to return, but the knee just wouldn’t cooperate. He underwent surgery to repair the meniscus a week after being shut down but was also dealing with a bone bruise. The bone bruise has remained the issue, becoming a major roadblock in the sprinting and cutting aspects of the rehab.

The Bulls had put a pause on Ball’s rehab two weeks ago, giving him one last chance to allow the pain to subside, but that didn’t work in his favor. With only two regular-season games left, that put the organization in a tough spot with a timetable for a return and the NBA calendar winding down.

“Just the whole dynamic of the game changes with ’Zo out there,’’ DeRozan said. “The excitement that he brings, he brings a different type of swagger to us when he plays. I’m pretty sure you can pinpoint that when he’s out there.’’

Ball was an irritant on defense and was shooting a career-best 42.3% from three-point range before he went down.

As far as what’s next in his rehab process or if there would be another surgery, Donovan said he was not aware of any such talk.

Carus-no

Caruso missed the game against the Celtics. He’s dealing with a back issue that has been nagging him for weeks.

“Being around Alex, he’s just not moving like he normally does,’’ Donovan said. “I think the biggest impact is probably his defense, and I think that probably frustrates him the most. The biggest thing is trying to get him close to feeling better.’’

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