After sounding optimistic about Lonzo Ball‘s rehabilitation process at the beginning of November, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan struck a different tone on Wednesday evening, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.
“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said. “I’m just being honest.”
Ball underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his left knee at the end of September and was set to be reevaluated in four-to-six weeks. Today marks nine weeks since the surgery was performed, but there’s still no clarity on when he might make his 2022/23 season debut.
Donovan said that Ball “has not necessarily suffered a setback,” according to Schaefer, but he’s “not even close” to resuming contact or on-court work.
“He’s working through more and more. But 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.’ To be honest with you we’re not even close to that,” Donovan said.
“Him working through the pain he was experiencing before, there has been improvement in that area, but they’re also trying to continue to build up strength because of the lack of time he’s had, so to speak, training. They’re constantly, like, all hands on deck, everyone is evaluating. There’s a lot of people that are involved in trying to help him.”
As Schaefer notes, “everyone” includes Chicago’s medical staff as well as specialists in Los Angeles, where both of Ball’s recent surgeries were performed. He missed the team’s final 42 games of the ’21/22 regular season after undergoing left meniscus surgery in January.
Ball last played on January 14 and obviously has yet to play this season.
One noteworthy point from Donovan’s aforementioned answer is that Ball is still experiencing pain, though he’s shown “improvement.” The coach later expanded on that, per Schaefer.
“He is better after the surgery, I will say that, but is he completely pain-free? No, and that’s what they’re working towards,” Donovan said. “Or, at least, if he does have some pain, he’s able to play through some of it, work through some of it. All these guys are dealing with pain as the season goes on in some form of it. But for him it’s the pain that has [prevented him from] getting back to playing.”
The Bulls were the No. 1 seed in the East at the time Ball was injured last season, holding a 27-13 record. They went just 19-23 the rest of the way and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Bucks.
Chicago has certainly missed Ball’s defense, long-range shooting, and ability to push the pace in transition. The Bulls have had a rocky start to the ’22/23 season, currently holding a 9-11 record.