Lonzo Ball will undergo a third surgical procedure in an attempt to resolve the pain and discomfort in his left knee that has kept him off the court for the majority of his first two seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
Ball will undergo a cartilage transplant this month and then begin a lengthy recovery process. Ball ultimately could spend two full years — or more — away from the basketball court with a recovery timeline that will likely sideline him for most of the 2023-24 season.
Ball has not been able to play basketball since Jan. 14, 2022, when he suffered a meniscus injury that required surgery. Despite early predictions from the Bulls that he would be available by the playoffs that year, Ball continued to experience pain and discomfort that ultimately required an arthroscopic debridement procedure on Sept. 28.
“My main focus has been on returning to the court and getting to a place where I can rejoin my teammates,” Ball said in a statement on Thursday. “This has been a frustrating process, but I’m confident these next steps are the best path forward. The support of my family, friends, fans and medical staff throughout my recovery is what keeps me moving forward. I can’t wait to get back to what I love doing most — playing basketball.”
As Ball’s recovery continued to stretch out — steeped in uncertainty as his pain and discomfort did not cease — talk from Bulls players and coaches shifted from eagerness to see his return to full-fledged worry.
In rare availabilities with reporters over the last year, Ball has emphasized he is working to remain optimistic and levelheaded as he pursues a full recovery. His father, LaVar Ball, reiterated that hopefulness in a February interview with Bulls announcer Stacey King. But the mystery surrounding the source of the pain throws a heavier shroud over Ball’s injury, especially for an athlete who was only 24 when the injury occured.
“I continue to admire Lonzo’s perseverance throughout this journey,” Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas said in a statement. “This has been a long and challenging road for him, and this decision has been a difficult one to make. The organization is behind him, and he has our full support. Our training and medical staff continue their commitment to Lonzo’s rehabilitation and to working with him throughout this next phase to ensure his healthy return to basketball.”
As Ball prepares to miss potentially a third straight season, the Bulls face a difficult conundrum as they attempt to balance their roster. Ball signed a four-year, $80 million deal in August 2021. If he misses next season, he will have played only 35 games of the first three years of that deal.
Last summer, the Bulls stood pat in the offseason with the hopes of Ball returning to the starting point guard position, relying on backup players such as Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu to fill the role in the interim.
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports