Bulls goaltender Lonzo Ball doesn’t take season off the table

Positive medical updates on guard Lonzo Ball have been rare since joining the Bulls before last season.

That didn’t change on Tuesday.

Speaking via Zoom from Los Angeles, Ball painted an unclear picture of his return to the field and hinted that missing the entire 2022-23 season was not entirely out of order.

”For me, this will be my third operation [on his left knee], so this time around I really don’t want to rush anything,” said Ball, who is due to have surgery on Wednesday. ”I think the last time [in January], I wanted to come back for the playoffs and stuff, and I thought — we all thought — that was going to be the case. Unfortunately, that was not the case. So this time we just have to take it as slow as necessary and get back to 100%. ”

That’s not exactly what the Bulls wanted to hear, especially from their best two-way player and the engine that gets their fast-paced offense going.

But there’s a bigger picture for Ball, especially with everything he’s been through since being diagnosed with a bone bruise in January. That’s what he was focusing on.

”[Missing the entire season is] not on my mind right now, but that would be the worst case scenario,” Ball said. ”I’m at a point now where I know I can’t come back out there until I’m comfortable playing and can actually play. So whenever that day comes, that’s when I’ll put the jersey back on. ”

After the surgery, Ball will be reevaluated in four to six weeks. A clearer timetable should then be known.

The Bulls’ hope, however, is that it doesn’t turn around in four to six months. That was last season’s storyline. The bone bruise was originally supposed to keep Ball out for a few weeks, but it eventually turned into surgery to repair the knee meniscus. Even then, the Bulls hoped to bring Ball back in time for a late-season push into the playoffs.

It never happened.

” Like I said, I thought I was going to be back for the playoffs [last season]” Ball said. ”But things happen, and something weird has obviously happened. I have never felt such pain. I was able to ramp up a bit but never completely, so it’s definitely a unique situation. But the doctors and the Bulls felt that we are all trying to figure out what it is.

Ball said he still had trouble climbing stairs and that running and jumping caused him pain during his rehabilitation earlier this summer.

That’s why coach Billy Donovan hopes for the best but prepares for the worst.

“Even last year you had to prepare like he wasn’t going to be there,” Donovan said. ”You don’t even know how long – if everything goes well with the surgery – [it will take] so that he regains his form as a player.

Either way, Ball’s teammates stressed it was all about holding the fort down until he could come back.

”We have great guards behind [Ball], so I’m not really too worried about who’s going to play the position, ”said guard Alex Caruso. “Obviously we have great options: me, Ayo [Dosunmu]Gorane [Dragic].

“It’s about figuring out what is the best chemistry of certain formations, of certain guys, whether it’s defensively, offensively, mixing with who’s there. For us, that’s kind of what training camp and pre-season are for, to figure it all out. I think we are in good hands at the moment. But can’t wait to have [Ball] back soon.”

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