Bulls guard Lonzo Ball doesn’t take missing the season off the table

Positive Lonzo Ball medical updates have been few and far between since the point guard joined the Bulls in the 2021 offseason.

That trend wasn’t about to change on Tuesday.

Speaking via Zoom from Los Angeles, not only did Ball paint an unclear picture about his return to the court this season, but left it open that missing the entire 2022-23 campaign was not entirely off the table.

“For me, this will be my third surgery so this time around I really don’t want to rush anything,” Ball said of the left knee surgery he was scheduled for on Wednesday. “I think like last time [in January], I wanted to get back to the playoffs and stuff, and I thought – we all thought – that was going to be the case and unfortunately it wasn’t, so this time we need to just take it as slow as we need to take it and come back 100%.”

Not exactly the news the Bulls were hoping for, especially coming from their best two-way player, and the engine that gets the up-tempo offense going.

But there’s a bigger picture for Ball, especially with everything he’s gone through since he was first diagnosed with a bone bruise last January.

That’s what the former No. 2 overall pick was focusing on.

“[Missing the entire season is] not in 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 get back out there until I’m comfortable playing and can actually play. So whenever that day comes, that’s when I’ll have the jersey back on.”

After the surgery, Ball will enter a four-to-six week window before he will be re-evaluated and a clearer timetable will be known.

The hope from the organization is that four-to-six weeks, however, doesn’t turn into four-to-six months.

That was the storyline last season, as the bone bruise was initially timetabled as a few weeks, and then eventually turned into surgery to repair a meniscus. Even then, the hope was to have Ball back for March basketball, and a late-season push into the playoffs.

That never happened.

“Like I said, I thought I was for sure going to be back for the playoffs [last year],” Ball said. “But things happen, and something weird obviously happened, that I’ve never felt pain like this or was able to ramp up a little bit but never fully, so definitely a unique situation, but the doctors and the Bulls felt we’re all trying to figure out what it is.”

According to Ball, he’s still having pain walking up the stairs, and when he was rehabbing earlier in the summer, simply running and jumping caused pain.

Never a good sign.

That’s why coach Billy Donovan was preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.

“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 great with the surgery – how long for him to get back into playing form.”

Either way, Ball’s teammates stressed that it was about holding down the fort until he can return.

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

“It’s about figuring out what’s the best chemistry of certain lineups, certain guys, whether it’s defensively, offensively, mixing with who’s out there. For us, that’s kind of what training camp and preseason is for, to figure all that out. I think we’re in good hands for the time being. But looking forward to having him back soon.”

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