PHOENIX – Billy Donovan would have loved nothing more than actually giving a positive update on point guard Lonzo Ball on Wednesday.
Unfortunately for the Bulls coach, there just aren’t a whole lot of those right now.
While there’s been no setbacks for Ball and his recovery from a second left knee surgery back in September, the progress forward also remained very slow.
Enough so that Donovan said, “To be honest with you, there’s a lot of people that have tried to wrap their head around this in terms of trying to figure it out.”
The “figuring out” part remained the pain that Ball was still experiencing in the knee as they try and move him along through the rehabilitation.
Last month, the update was Ball was at least on a treadmill in the water, but a source told the Sun-Times that when they’ve tried to get him beyond that onto the next steps, the pain has persisted.
Not exactly what the organization was hoping for when they acquired Ball in a sign-and-trade, and now haven’t seen him play in a game since Jan. 14.
“It’s not like I can give you any report, ‘Hey, he’s running, he’s cutting, he’s jumping, he’s doing individual skill work, the next step is we’ve got to get him some contact.’ ” Donovan said. “To be honest with you we’re not even close to that.”
What Donovan would rule out is the organization having a set date in which they just shut Ball down for the season. Like last year, Ball is still 100% committed to try and return to the court as soon as possible, even with the slow progress.
“I haven’t been a part of any discussions like that at all,” Donovan said, when discussing shutting Ball down. “It’s been more about how to get him back on the floor to where he’s playing. We haven’t gotten that far. I feel bad for him because I feel like he’s worked hard to try and get back. He’s a young guy, he’s a really good player, and you hate to see a guy – I guess it’s another month or so, right, that’s coming up on a year? I hurt for him because he’s a great guy, he loves playing, and when something like that is taken away from a guy you feel bad for him.”
While Ayo Dosunmu has done a solid job trying to fill Ball’s spot in the starting lineup, he simply can’t duplicate what Ball does. Few can. Not only is Ball the team’s best two-way player, causing havoc on the defensive end, but his ability to rebound and push the ball up the floor is visibly missed.
“He has his mind, his heart, everything set on getting himself back this year,” Donovan said. “But there’s no timetable. That’s where he’s at mentally. That’s what he’s working towards. I have no timetable for it. But if it gets so far into the year, there’s that [shutting him down]. But there’s also a piece to a guy being out and getting some games under his belt to getting back to playing.”
Donovan was still discussing the secret contract extension the Bulls signed him to back in the fall, and had a very honest answer when asked if he felt he deserved to get an extension.
“I don’t know if anybody deserves anything,” Donovan said. “I never have. I always looked at it the other way, I looked at it as being fortunate to have an opportunity to go to work every single day.”