Lonzo Ball

Central Notes: York, Middleton, Ball, Brown

An unexpected conversation with Kevin Durant left a huge impression on Pacers guard Gabe York, who finally reached the NBA last month after years of trying, writes James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. York, 28, signed a two-way contract with Indiana and appeared in two games, including the season finale against the Nets.

“He comes up to me talking about, ‘Yo, I seen the struggle. I seen the journey that you went through to get here, bro, like for real, congrats. I know it’s been work,'” York said. “And just knowing that KD said that (expletive), I’m really like, ‘Wow, bro. People really watched (my journey).'”

After going undrafted out of Arizona in 2016, York spent time in Germany, Greece, Israel and Italy before joining the Pacers’ G League affiliate in Fort Wayne. He admits being nervous before his NBA debut, but that stopped once he got into the game.

“My nerves went away instantly and for whatever reason in my brain, in my mind it told itself, ‘It was like, ‘Nah, you belong here,'” York said. “It felt right. Nothing felt forced. Nothing felt too fast, too nothing. … When you’re in the G League or when you’re overseas, you just keep watching TV, keep watching the NBA and you just see stats and you see players, you think they’re bigger than what they are. And then once you get on the court with them, you’re like, ‘I played basketball for 20 years, bro.’ You need to guard me, (too).”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks guard Khris Middleton is making progress in his recovery from an MCL sprain in his left knee, but he’s not ready to start playing again, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Coach Mike Budenholzer, who expressed hope last week that Middleton might be able to return at some point during Milwaukee’s second-round series with the Celtics, told reporters today that Middleton has been able to do “a little” on the court, but there’s nothing significant to update.
  • After playing just 35 games this season, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is focused on being healthier in the future, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Ball suffered a bone bruise, then had surgery for a torn meniscus and didn’t play after January 14.
  • The Bulls are unlikely to bring back Tristan Thompson and Matt Thomas next season, but they face a more difficult decision on  Troy Brown Jr., Johnson states in a mailbag column. They have a June 29 deadline to extend a qualifying offer to Brown to make him a restricted free agent.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Roster Decisions, Offseason

Speaking today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter links), Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said his hope is to have Zach LaVine in Chicago going forward and that he’s confident the two sides can work out a new deal, given their strong relationship. LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Addressing LaVine’s left knee injury, which was a nagging issue for much of the 2021/22 season, Karnisovas suggested it’s unlikely to be a major factor in free agency negotiations and that a final determination hasn’t been made on whether the All-Star guard will require surgery. As Johnson notes, an MRI on the knee showed nothing structurally wrong that would create long-term concern, but surgery still appears likely.

In his own session with the media, LaVine confirmed that he’s going to meet with his doctor in Los Angeles to determine the best plan of action for his knee (Twitter link via Johnson). He also stated that free agency is a “big decision” for him and his family and that he intends to take his time to consider all his options (Twitter link via Johnson).

While LaVine said he’ll leave it to his agent and the Bulls’ front office to try to work out a deal, he admitted that being a maximum-salary player is important to him, tweets Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago: I see myself as a top guy in this league and I think I’ve proven that over the last four years.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Besides retaining LaVine, Karnisovas likes the idea of keeping the Bulls’ roster mostly intact and making minor changes around the edges, tweets Schaefer. Hopefully we can keep the core together and work around the margins,” Karnisovas said.
  • Lonzo Ball is on board with Karnisovas’ plan to maintain the current core, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com. “I would love to run it back,” Ball said. “I was unhealthy this year. (Alex) Caruso went down. Pat(rick Williams) was pretty much out all the way until the playoffs. Everyone knows Zach was playing hurt pretty much this whole year. If everybody can get healthy and come back, I don’t see why we couldn’t run it back.” DeMar DeRozan added that he has “the utmost trust and faith in the front office to do the job,” Smith writes.
  • In his Bulls offseason preview, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype examines LaVine’s free agency, a possible extension for Nikola Vucevic, and more.

Lonzo Ball’s Rehab At “Standstill,” Will Visit Specialist Next Week

Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, who was officially ruled out for the season on April 6 after experiencing a couple of setbacks in his surgically-repaired left knee, says his rehab is “kind of at a standstill right now,” according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Ball plans to visit another specialist next week, as he’s still experiencing pain from the bone bruise in his knee.

Kind of let it calm down for the last two weeks. I was going at it pretty hard trying to get back as fast as possible,” Ball said. “But like I said, at a standstill, still have pain. So gotta get that figured out this summer for sure.”

Ball said he isn’t sure whether he’ll need a second surgery, but hopes to avoid it if possible.

Hopefully not. I wouldn’t want to have another one,” he said. “But if that’s what it takes, then I pretty much have no choice at this point.”

As Johnson notes, injuries have been a concern for Ball throughout his pro career. The January surgery to repair his torn meniscus was the second time he’s had a procedure to repair the same cartilage in his left knee, the first occurring in 2017.

Ball has appeared in 252 of a possible 390 games in his five-year career, including 35 of 82 this season. He admitted something needs to change in the offseason.

Obviously, something needs to be addressed this summer—a lot more leg workouts as opposed to probably upper body,” Ball said, per Johnson. “I’m going to work with the doctors and the strength coaches and do what I gotta do to get healthy.”

Acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with New Orleans last offseason, Ball played a major role in Chicago’s impressive first half. He started 35 games at point guard, averaging 13.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, and 1.8 SPG with a .423 3PT% and strong defense. The Bulls went 22-13 in games he played, and 24-23 without him.

The 24-year-old will earn $19.5MM in 2022/23, the second season of his four-year, $80MM contract with Chicago, which includes a player option in 2024/25.

Central Notes: Middleton, Ball, Caruso, Sexton

How will the Bucks survive their first-round series against the Bulls without Khris Middleton? Jrue Holiday needs to ramp up his production, Eric Nehm of The Athletic opines. Middleton will be out at least two weeks with an MCL sprain and he’s the only big wing in the rotation, Nehm notes. Coach Mike Budenholzer could go a number of ways with his starting lineup, from Grayson Allen to Pat Connaughton to even Bobby Portis, which would give Milwaukee a jumbo look.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball has already been ruled out for the postseason and there’s still reasons for long-term concern, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Ball has continued to deal with discomfort in his left knee and coach Billy Donovan isn’t sure when he’ll be able to begin an offseason training program. “If it gets to a place where he’s still having discomfort after a longer period of time, I don’t know what the next step would be,” Donovan said.
  • Added last offseason on a four-year, $37MM pact, Alex Caruso is paying big dividends for the Bulls in the playoffs, Sam Smith of the team’s website writes. Caruso’s defense was the underrated reason why Chicago won Game 2 in Milwaukee. “He made a couple of big threes, had a couple of rebounds that were big. … He’s really a great guy because he will not shortcut or rest on the court, so to speak,” Donovan said. “He’s going to give you everything he has. He’s smart, knows what he has to do, is physical defensively for our team and he gives you everything he has.”
  • Multiple sources tell Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the Pistons could make a run at Cavaliers restricted free agent Collin Sexton this summer to pair him up with Cade Cunningham in Detroit’s backcourt. The Pistons could have the most cap space in the league this summer but Fedor is uncertain if anyone will give Sexton an offer sheet that Cleveland wouldn’t match, noting Sexton’s season was a washout after he tore the meniscus in his left knee 11 games into the campaign.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Dosunmu, Ball, Vucevic

Zach LaVine may have dealt with left knee issues during the season but that won’t affect his bargaining power in the offseason, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.  Multiple league executives believe it’s a foregone conclusion the Bulls swingman will sign a max contract as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Mayberry writes. LaVine could be the top available player on the market, depending on how things shake out with other potential free agents. He averaged 24.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 4.5 APG during the regular season.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu will be a key performer during the postseason with Lonzo Ball sidelined by a knee injury. He’s ready for the challenge, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I know I play hard. I have a lot of faith. I believe in my ability,” Dosunmu said. “I understand when (the intensity) rises, I’ll be able to rise also.”
  • The team will miss Ball in a number of ways during the playoffs, Johnson writes in a separate story. Johnson notes that, without Ball, the Bulls aren’t creating as many turnovers, their pace of play has slowed and their 3-point shooting has fallen off. The former No. 2 overall pick was ruled out for the playoffs last week after he suffered a setback during his rehab.
  • Nikola Vucevic dominated Brook Lopez two seasons ago in the playoffs, though the Bucks eliminated the Magic. The Bulls will need Vucevic to be stellar once again against his counterpart to have any chance of upsetting Milwaukee in the first round, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “He’s really important to our team and he’s been important all year long,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I think for him, even when you speak to him, I do feel like that with some of him being in rhythm offensively, I really like the shots he’s gotten.” Vucevic averaged 28 PPG, 11 RPG and 4 APG during that series with Orlando, which lasted five games.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, LaVine, Losing Streak, Ball, Caruso

After another blowout loss on Friday night, this time at the hands of the Hornets by a score of 133-117, Bulls stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine didn’t mince words about the way the team performed, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Charlotte started the game 11-for-11 from the field and scored 79 points in the first half, the most Chicago has allowed in a half this season.

We got our a—- beat. Simple as that,” DeRozan said. “They attacked us. We couldn’t guard them. They had their way.”

Fans at the United Center booed the Bulls at a couple separate points during the listless performance, and LaVine said those boos were earned.

To be honest, they should (boo). It’s embarrassing,” LaVine said. “We’re a really good basketball team and we’re not playing like it. They (the fans) know that. We know that. It’s understandable. We understand they have our back. But we have to play better.”

Chicago has lost four straight heading into Sunday’s finale at Minnesota and is locked into the No. 6 seed in the East after Toronto beat Houston on Friday. LaVine said the mood in the locker room isn’t great right now, according to Jamal Collier of ESPN.

Everybody is upset, man. We’re getting our a– kicked. They just jumped on us,” LaVine said. “We singing the same story, and I always try to be very uplifting and try to see the bright side, but I’m tired of talking. We say a lot of words and we say the right thing, but we got to figure it out. We’re not doing that, plain and simple.”

As Schaefer notes, the Bulls are struggling at the worst possible time with the playoffs looming — they’re just 7-15 since the All-Star break and playing poorly on both ends of the court, with the fifth-worst point differential in the league during that span.

Here’s more on Chicago:

  • DeRozan said he’s not interested in resting for the finale, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “There’s nothing like having a rhythm while playing,” DeRozan said after Wednesday’s loss. “I’m going to continue to play this thing out, and hopefully we’re going in the right direction come next week. It’s going to come. It sucks right now over the last couple of weeks, but I have the utmost confidence in the guys.”
  • LaVine was less certain about his status for Sunday’s game, but said he’d rather play if he can, as Schaefer relays. “We’ll evaluate it. I don’t know yet,” LaVine said. “I’ve been playing injured the whole year. I want to continue to fight. But I’m gonna listen to the medical staff, my team, and figure out what’s best for us moving forward. But I plan on trying to play.” LaVine has been battling left knee soreness throughout the season.
  • Head coach Billy Donovan said Lonzo Ball will continue to rehab in Chicago with the goal of reducing discomfort in his surgically repaired left knee, but a second surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, Cowley writes in a separate story. “I have not heard anything, or no one has told anything to me that he will need another surgery,” Donovan said. “So I don’t necessarily believe that is going to take place.” Ball was ruled out for the season on Wednesday after experiencing a couple setbacks during rehab.
  • Within the same article, Donovan said Alex Caruso is still dealing with back problems. “He still has some mobility issues, discomfort,” Donovan said. “He’s been hampered with the back for some time now.” As Cowley observes, it sounds like Caruso might not be 100% for the playoffs — he has missed the past two games while dealing with the injury.

Bulls Officially Rule Out Lonzo Ball For Season

The Bulls have officially announced that point guard Lonzo Ball will miss the rest of the 2021/22 season, confirming the news in a press release. Multiple reports on Tuesday indicated this was the likely outcome.

According to the Bulls, Ball – who underwent left knee surgery on January 28 – is still experiencing pain when he engages in high-level physical activity. The plan is for him to continue receiving daily treatment and progressing through rehab as he prepares to return for the start of the 2022/23 season.

Ball has been out since January 14 after suffering a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his left knee. The team initially estimated a six-to-eight week recovery timeline, but Ball experienced a couple setbacks during that process and ultimately ran out of time to get healthy and ramped up.

Acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with New Orleans last offseason, Ball played a major role in Chicago’s impressive first half. He started 35 games at point guard, averaging 13.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, and 1.8 SPG with a .423 3PT% and solid defense.

As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes, the Bulls have noticeably missed Ball’s “swagger” and his ability to make an impact on both ends of the court. The club had a net rating of +3.1 and a defensive rating of 107.0 with Ball on the floor, compared to -1.6 and 114.5 without him.

If the Bulls, who have slipped to No. 6 in the East, are going to make any noise in the postseason, they’ll have to do so without Ball. Had they been fully healthy, the Bulls might’ve employed a closing lineup of Ball, Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic. According to Johnson, that group had a +12.5 net rating this season, but only played 95 minutes together.

Ball’s contract with the Bulls includes two more guaranteed years, with a player option for 2024/25, so he’ll remain a crucial part of their long-term core going forward.

Bulls Notes: Playoffs, Rest, LaVine, Ball

After the Cavs lost to the Magic on Tuesday, the Bulls clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2017, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

I’m happy for our guys, I’m happy for our organization,” coach Billy Donovan said of the playoff berth. “You want to be playing at that time of the year. A lot of these guys haven’t experienced this.”

However, Chicago lost to Milwaukee 127-106, raising more questions than answers about the team’s chances as the playoffs loom, according to Cowley. The Bulls were swept by both the Bucks and Sixers this season, and there’s a good chance they’ll face one of them in the first round.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Donovan said that resting players who feel like they need it over the last three games will take precedence, although he believes that playing would help them stay sharp ahead of the playoffs (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago).
  • That could be particularly important for Zach LaVine, who missed the team’s practice on Monday and shootaround on Tuesday in addition to the Bucks game. Donovan said LaVine’s left knee was bothering him Tuesday morning, but the team’s medical staff indicated that it likely wouldn’t be a multiple-game absence, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). LaVine’s status for Wednesday’s game against Boston is unknown, and he’s considered day-to-day going forward — obviously that could change with the team clinching a playoff berth.
  • DeMar DeRozan said Lonzo Ball‘s impact on the team will be sorely missed, as Schaefer relays (via Twitter). He brings a different type of swagger to us when he plays…From his passing, his IQ, his capability to knock down shots…The whole dynamic of the game changes with ‘Zo out there,” DeRozan said. Ball is expected to be shut down for the rest of the season after experiencing more discomfort in his knee.

Lonzo Ball Has Discomfort In Knee, Likely Out For Season

5:50pm: Ball is expected to be shut down for the rest of the season, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

5:35pm: Bulls coach Billy Donovan recently told reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter links), that Lonzo Ball has again experienced discomfort after attempting to go full speed on his surgically repaired knee.

Donovan said the team will consult with its medical professionals within the next day or two and there still hasn’t been a final decision made about whether Ball would be able to be able to return for the playoffs, per Johnson (Twitter link). Johnson thinks that’s extremely unlikely at this point, given how long Ball has been sidelined.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirms Johnson’s reporting (via Twitter), citing league sources who say there’s increasing skepticism that Ball will play again this season. Wojnarowski adds there will be a conversation between Ball’s representation and the team soon.

Ball hasn’t played since January 14 after suffering a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his left knee, which required surgery. He was originally projected to miss six-to-eight weeks, but he’s now nine-plus weeks removed from surgery.

The bone bruise seems to be the main culprit at the moment, not the surgically repaired meniscus. Ball first experienced some discomfort a few weeks ago, so the team decided he should focus on strengthening the knee as opposed to running for 10 days.

Donovan said a few days that the team was trying to slowly work Ball back up to sprinting and cutting as he tried to get back to full speed. Obviously that didn’t go well, since he experienced discomfort again.

Ball was a key contributor on both ends of the floor in the first few months of the season, averaging 13.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.8 SPG and 0.9 BPG on .423/.423/.750 shooting (35 games, 34.6 minutes per contest). He received a four-year, $85MM contract in a sign-and-trade between Chicago and New Orleans last August.

The Bulls currently hold a 45-33 record, in a virtual tie with Toronto for the No. 5 seed in the East, but Chicago holds the tiebreaker due to a better head-to-head record. The team is on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016/17.

Bulls Notes: Caruso, Ball, Struggles, Williams, White

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said Alex Caruso is dealing with back spasms, which is why the guard asked to come out in the third quarter of Saturday’s 127-109 loss to Miami (Twitter link from Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago). Donovan said “it’s a problem” right now, but it’s not expected to sideline Caruso long-term.

Caruso might be rested during the last four games of the regular season depending on how he’s feeling, Donovan said. Caruso has been working hard to stay on the court by going through treatment, but the back spasms are hampering him at the moment.

Donovan also said the team is trying to slowly work Lonzo Ball back up to sprinting and cutting, but he’s not full speed yet. Donovan expects to know more on Ball’s progress by Tuesday or Wednesday, as Schaefer relays (via Twitter).

Ball hasn’t played since January 14 after suffering a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his left knee, which required surgery. He was originally projected to miss six-to-eight weeks, but he’s now nine-plus weeks removed from surgery. He’s still dealing with the bone bruise and had some discomfort a couple weeks ago.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • The Bulls’ struggles against top-tier teams continued on Saturday when they lost to Miami, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago is a combined 0-17 against the Heat, Bucks, Sixers, Suns, Grizzlies and Warriors. The Bulls are currently 45-33, the No. 6 seed in the East. They trail the Raptors, winners of five straight, by a half-game for the No. 5 seed.
  • Second-year forward Patrick Williams recently had his minutes restriction lifted, but Donovan said he’s not going to be handed minutes just because he’s healthy, Cowley writes in a separate story. “When [people] are sitting here, ‘Well, play him 30 minutes,’ sometimes he’s not ready for that,” Donovan said. “I get a chance to be around him every single day and talk to him, and there’s things he’s trying to figure out along the way, too. You want to put him in a position where he can be successful. I have to keep on trusting him. . . . Like, I had to get on him at halftime [Thursday] about, ‘You have to do more.’ It’s got to get to a point where for him it’s more instinctive, where he’s doing it a little more on his own.” Williams missed most of the season after undergoing left wrist surgery.
  • With Caruso, Ball and Zach LaVine (sore knee) all dealing with injuries, the Bulls need more production from Coby White, according to Cowley. In 39 games (28.2 MPG) leading up to the All-Star break, White was averaging 14.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 2.8 APG on .453/.401/.840 shooting, but he’s been in a bad slump ever since — his averages have dipped to 9.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 3.1 APG on .383/.314/1.000 shooting in 19 games (25.3 MPG) post-break. He went 0-of-9 on Saturday, including 0-of-7 from deep.