Lonzo Ball will stay with Bulls for remainder of season

With Ball’s year done because of a left knee injury, there was some uncertainty earlier in the week on his immediate future. However, coach Billy Donovan said Friday that Ball would stay with the team and continue strengthening his knee.

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Bulls guard Lonzo Ball.

Tim Heitman/AP file

Bulls doctors still have no idea how long it’s going to take for the discomfort in guard Lonzo Ball’s left knee to fully subside after he was ruled out for the rest of the season Wednesday. But they do know where he’s going to be.

Coach Billy Donovan said the immediate plan is for Ball to stay with the team, continuing his rehab program, for as long as the season lasts. A second surgery appears to have been ruled out.

“I have not heard anything, or no one has told anything to me that he will need another surgery,” Donovan said. “So I don’t necessarily believe that is going to take place. What they’ve talked to me about is, right now he is doing some training. Trying to get him ramped up to play again, that’s kind of off the table, and the main focus really is how do we get rid of his knee pain and discomfort? Obviously strengthening him, getting him stronger, all those types of things. I’m not sure if anyone knows how long that will take.”

Ball last played Jan. 14 before a bone bruise forced him into street clothes, then underwent surgery after a second look showed that his meniscus needed to be repaired. The original return timeframe was six to eight weeks, but Ball continued to have pain during the running portions of his rehab.

Once it was determined the bone bruise was the cause of the pain, the Bulls eased up on Ball’s sprinting and cutting and finally gave him a full 10-day pause last month with the hope the bruise would heal completely. But when they attempted to ramp him up again earlier this week, the pain was still there, leading to the decision to shut him down.

Without Ball, the Bulls don’t just have a huge hole on defense. He’s also one of their better three-point shooters and was the spark plug in their transition game with his ability to pass the ball.

Land of the giants

The numbers have been ugly when Donovan has played big men Tristan Thompson and Nikola Vucevic at the same time. But that doesn’t mean he won’t experiment with the duo some more in the postseason.

He recalled a similar situation in his days with the Thunder when Steven Adams and Enes Kanter had some bad moments in the regular season but were effective together in the playoffs against the Spurs.

“Besides looking at the numbers, you’ve got to look at the film to determine,” Donovan said. “It wasn’t like [Adams and Kanter] didn’t play well together. We had to get things in place so that it was a little more cohesive.”

Back again

Guard Alex Caruso, the Bulls’ best defensive player, was out again with back trouble Friday as the team faced the Hornets. 

The Bulls are doing all they can to make sure Caruso is healthy as soon as possible for the postseason. But that doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily be 100%.

“He still has some mobility issues, discomfort,” Donovan said. “He’s been hampered with the back for some time now.” 

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