Lonzo Ball knows the calendar is not on his side.
To the credit of the Bulls guard, however, he’s throwing that out the window.
According to coach Billy Donovan, Ball resumed his running program on Thursday, and while it was very basic, the hope is it will lead to a return at some point this season.
“I don’t know any of that stuff,” Donovan said, when asked if the program Ball was on would get him in uniform in time to be a factor. “I said last week, he’s a driver behind a lot of this. He really wants to play, but he’s also going to be smart in terms of how he’s feeling, and he’s going to be realistic.
“The doctors will put their heads together, but certainly every day that goes by and time that goes by, you’re moving closer and closer to the end of the season. I have not gotten anything from the doctors that said, ‘Listen, there’s just not enough time, we can’t get him back.’ They’re going to do everything they can to try and get him back.”
Especially with everything at stake.
In the wake of the Clippers game, the Bulls have just five regular-season games left. Ball hasn’t played a game since Jan. 14, when the left knee became too painful to deal with and he opted for surgery to repair his meniscus.
This on-going issue post-surgery, however, was actually a bone bruise, which was the initial red flag with the knee and what originally sidelined him.
Ball’s rehab was ramped up in late February and into early March, but he kept hitting a road block of pain as they started attempting sprinting and cutting. Rather than trying to power through it, it was decided less than two weeks ago to simply pause the rehab process.
Now comes one more attempt to push it again.
“Obviously with the amount of time that he had to kind of let things calm down, not going to go zero-to-60, there will be each day a little bit more, see how he does,” Donovan said. “But that process is going to start now, just to see how he responds. There’s been nothing with what he’s done, even with a little bit of work [Thursday]. I think they’ll be really smart in terms of he had time off to let it calm down, and now incrementally try and build him back up.
“So that will take a little bit of time just to see how he responds once we get him back to a place where we can try and get him that sprinting and cutting.”
But there’s a reason that Ball wants to return, and why the Bulls would welcome it. Before he was injured, Ball was not only the sparkplug for the transition game and playing like an all-defensive player, but he was shooting a career-best 42.3% from three-point range.
Ball was the perfect kick in the drive-and-kick for the likes of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, especially with how well he was shooting the corner three, which a lot of defenses have been giving up when they play the Bulls because of all the attention paid to LaVine’s attack game and DeRozan’s mid-range.
If Ball can start sprinting and cutting after the pause he took, full contact in practice would come quickly, and then he would get some restricted minutes in live games.
“We’ll see if this helps,” Donovan added.