Bulls’ Lonzo Ball makes positive strides, but there are still lots of unknowns

Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Ball has started doing some work on the treadmill in the water and is moving forward after surgery on his left knee in September, but that doesn’t mean there’s a clearer picture of when — or if — he’ll return this season.

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Lonzo Ball

BOSTON — Bulls coach Billy Donovan has hope about guard Lonzo Ball and his injured left knee, and that’s going to have to do for now.

Donovan said Friday before the Bulls’ 123-119 loss to the Celtics that while Ball has made positive strides since his latest surgery Sept. 28, the team is still grappling with the unknown when it comes to his recovery.

“Everything is very, very optimistic right now,” Donovan said. “I think there are things he’s able to do that he feels a lot freer [with], that he did prior to the surgery. The biggest part was allowing the incision inside his knee to heal, and then he started to do some things. He has done some running on a treadmill in the water, which is a positive sign. There are things he’s doing that he wasn’t able to do.”

Donovan and the Bulls’ medical staff still aren’t able to offer a more detailed timeline for Ball’s return. After the surgery, the plan was to re-evaluate him in four to six weeks. Although they’ve been working with Ball’s team to evaluate him daily now that they’re in that window, there are still obstacles to be figured out, many of which won’t become clear until Ball is able to start basketball activity and test his discomfort level.

Asked if he thought Ball would play at all this season, Donovan said, “I’m hopeful.”

He did make clear that when Ball told reporters before the surgery that he wasn’t going to rush back, the Bulls were in agreement. It wasn’t a situation where Ball’s team wanted one thing in a return timetable and the Bulls wanted another.

“When guys get second opinions and you have other really smart people in the room talking and collaborating and working together, you have more minds involved,” Donovan said. “Certainly, he’s going to be the driver of how he’s feeling. And his communication is going to be very important. But along with him, the doctor in [Los Angeles], our medical staff, our orthopedic surgeon, they’re all going to communicate. Very much so, everybody is on the same page.”

GUESS AGAIN ON DRUMMOND

Ball’s injury isn’t the only one with more questions than answers. Reserve center Andre Drummond injured his left shoulder midway through the Bulls’ loss to the Spurs last Friday — a game he remarkably finished — and although an MRI exam indicated a sprain, the initial feeling was it would better in a matter of days.

Days could now easily be weeks.

“Obviously the MRI was clean — it’s a sprain — but what happens is he probably had way better mobility the following morning, and then there was a period of time it just got worse, which is normal with a sprain,” Donovan said. “So he’s still having difficulty raising his arm over his head, and as a big guy [who] rebounds like he does, they just want to be cautious of him ever getting yanked back and it turning out to be something more significant.”

Backup guard Coby White is still dealing with a deep bruise in his thigh and missed his third straight game Friday. He remains day-to-day.

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