The Chicago Bulls are creeping nearer to shutting down level guard Lonzo Ball for a second straight season.
Ball hasn’t performed for the Bulls since Jan. 14, 2022, when a small tear within the MCL in his proper knee spiraled into an more and more confounding harm requiring two surgical procedures and persevering with to trigger him ache.
Though the Bulls haven’t set a agency cutoff date for Ball to return this season, they’re dealing with a quickly shortening runway. If Ball can’t make a drastic enchancment within the subsequent three weeks forward of the All-Star break, coach Billy Donovan mentioned the Bulls possible will sit down for a proper dialogue on Ball’s season — and his future.
“In the event you begin to get to that time, I feel there’ll most likely find yourself being some conversations: ‘OK, what if he’s nonetheless not near taking part in? What’s the plan going ahead?’ ” Donovan mentioned Saturday earlier than the finale of a three-game journey towards the Orlando Magic.
If updates on Ball’s restoration really feel like recycled information, it’s not your creativeness. The season is progressing whereas Ball just isn’t, and Donovan’s updates on Ball are a repetition of the identical details he’s supplied for months.
Ball nonetheless isn’t working at full velocity. He can’t scrimmage or play basketball. Though he has made marginal enhancements — flippantly leaping to shoot and dunk the ball, jogging on a treadmill — none is sufficient to sign that Ball will probably be cleared within the coming weeks for sprinting or different high-intensity drills. And till he can dash at full velocity for a number of days in a row with out a setback, Ball can’t be cleared for contact drills, scrimmaging or getting again onto an NBA court docket.
There are solely seven weeks between the All-Star break and the tip of the common season. Even when Ball is cleared to start working in February, it’s unsure how he could possibly be ramped up in time to play significant minutes by the tip of the season.
“He’s made some progress, however I’d be the primary one to inform you he’s nowhere close to taking part in,” Donovan mentioned. “He’s simply not. As a result of he’s not working on a constant foundation. When he can get to that place the place he can try this constantly and have the ability to come again the following day and do it once more, do it once more and do it once more — I feel you’ll really feel a bit bit extra optimistic.”
Till then, Ball has no clear timeline for when — or if — he’ll placed on a Bulls jersey in 2023.