The Bulls doctors still have no idea how long it’s going to take for the discomfort in Lonzo Ball’s left knee to fully subside since the point guard was officially ruled out for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign on Wednesday, but they do know where he’s going to be.
According to coach Billy Donovan, the immediate plan was for Ball to stay with the team for as long as the season goes on, continuing a rehab program throughout.
What seemed to be ruled out, however, was Ball undergoing another surgery.
“I have not heard anything or no one has told anything to me that he will need another surgery,” Donovan said on Friday. “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 in a game back on Jan. 14, when a bone bruise forced him into street clothes. A second look also showed that the meniscus needed to be repaired, so Ball underwent surgery. The original timetable was a six-to-eight week window, but as that window was opened, further pain continued in the running part of the rehab process.
It was determined that it was in fact the bone bruise that was causing the pain, so Ball was backed up off the sprinting and cutting several times. Then last month, they gave him a full 10-day pause to let the bruise rest and hopefully heal.
When they attempted to ramp Ball up once again earlier this week, however, the pain was still there. That’s when medical and Ball made the decision to simply shut him down for the rest of the season.
In losing Ball, the Bulls not only had a huge hole on the defensive end, but he was one of their better three-point shooters, as well as the sparkplug in the transition game with his ability to pass the ball.
That’s why it will be key in making sure the knee is strengthened this summer, so that he will be at full strength for as many offseason workouts as he can make.
Land of giants
The numbers have been ugly when Donovan has played Tristan Thompson and Nikola Vucevic at the same time, but that doesn’t mean the coach won’t experiment with that duo in the postseason.
He recalled a similar situation in his Oklahoma City days when Steven Adams and Enes Kanter analytically had some bad moments in the regular season, but were very effective in the playoffs against San Antonio.
That’s why Donovan doesn’t want to rule out giving Thompson and Vucevic another look.
“Besides looking at the numbers, you’ve got to look at the film to determine,” Donovan said. “It wasn’t like those two [Kanter and Adams] didn’t play well together. We had to get things in place so that it was a little more cohesive.”
Alex Caruso was again out with a bad back on Friday, with the Bulls doing all they can to make sure their best defensive player will be as healthy as possible for the postseason. That doesn’t mean Caruso will be 100%, however.
“He still has some mobility issues, discomfort,” Donovan said. “I think the biggest thing for him is to get back and healthy. He’s been hampered with the back for some time now.”