Bulls officially rule out a return for guard Lonzo Ball this season

As expected and reported by the Bulls media for weeks, in the wake of two left knee surgeries in less than a year, any chance of a return this season for Ball won’t be happening, according to the team.

SHARE Bulls officially rule out a return for guard Lonzo Ball this season
Lonzo Ball

Bulls make it official by shutting down Lonzo Ball for the remainder of the 2022-23 season on Tuesday.

Michael Wyke/AP

For weeks, the media covering the Bulls have been reporting what has seemed inevitable about point guard Lonzo Ball and his dwindling chances of playing this season.

On Tuesday, the Bulls made it official.

In a statement released by the team, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said Ball had been ruled out for the rest of the season in the wake of having two surgeries on his left knee in less than a year.

‘‘Despite making significant increases in strength and function over the past several months, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball continues to experience performance limiting discomfort during participation in high level basketball-related activities,’’ the statement said. ‘‘Considering the required time period to achieve the necessary level of fitness to return-to-play and the current stage of the NBA season, Ball will not return this season. The focus for Ball will continue to be on the resolution of his discomfort and a full return for the 2023-24 season.’’

What that means in the big picture is that the Bulls will keep crossing their fingers as Ball continues to rehab the knee for the rest of this season and into the summer.

When the Bulls acquired Ball from the Pelicans in a sign-and-trade deal in the summer of 2021, he received a four-year, $85 million deal. He has played only 35 games for the Bulls since joining them.

If — and it’s still an if — Ball can return for the start of next season, he will make $20.4 million in the third year of the deal. If that goes well, he has an option for the fourth year at $21.3 million.

Then there’s the basketball side of it, too. Ball was an essential piece of the Bulls’ reload in 2021. They expected his defense, along with that of guard Alex Caruso, to cover up the deficiencies guard Zach LaVine and forward DeMar DeRozan have on that side of the ball.

The Bulls also were counting on the 6-6 Ball to use his size advantage at point guard to help their rebounding, to push the pace of play, to add three-point shooting and to be a true playmaker in their offensive sets.

Basically, his presence would have covered up most of the areas in which the Bulls have failed to execute since his injury.

Considering his medical situation, Ball is all but untradable for now. And even if he can answer the bell for the start of next season, he will have gone almost 650 days without playing in an NBA game.

Ball spoke with the media last month when the Bulls were in Paris and addressed just how difficult the injury has been on him mentally.

‘‘I mean, it’s the longest I’ve ever been out,’’ Ball said. ‘‘I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, so for me it’s a lot, especially just watching the guys every night and watching them go on planes and come back and stuff. I’m always just watching practice, I feel like. I’ve just gotta stay positive and do what I can to get on the court.’’

In the short term, however, the Bulls have a season to finish and a playoff chase to try to join with 23 games left in the regular season.

That’s why they are bringing veteran guard Patrick Beverley, a Chicago native, into the mix. The Bulls hope he can add some fire and defense to a 26-33 team sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference.

Can he do what Ball does? No. Players with Ball’s skills aren’t easy to replace.

The Bulls have been finding that out firsthand.

The Latest
Bedard entered the season finale Thursday with 61 points in 67 games, making him the most productive Hawks teenager since Patrick Kane in 2007-08, but he’s not entirely pleased with his performance.
A bevy of low averages glares in the first weeks of the season.
Mya King, 12, was found unresponsive Sunday morning and died Wednesday. Her mother, Colette Bancroft, was charged with possession of a controlled substance.
The Cubs still made a series of roster moves, activating right-hander Jameson Taillon and Patrick Wisdom from the IL.