Lonzo Ball

Bulls Notes: Lonzo, Trade Deadline, Vucevic, Caruso

During a recent appearance on Bulls television commentator Stacey King’s podcast Gimme The Hot Sauce, Lonzo Ball‘s father LaVar shed some light on the Chicago point guard’s lingering knee injury, now in its 13th month after two surgeries, writes Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago.

“Lonzo is gonna be fine,” LaVar Ball said. “He’s only 25 years old. He’s gonna get his stuff together and (he’s) gonna be ready to play and do his thing again. He had some debris in the nerve; that’s why he couldn’t get nothing done. But, all that’s done now. So now it’s about getting your strength back and then getting your endurance.”

At 24-27 this season, Chicago could sure use Ball’s three-point shooting and perimeter defense sooner rather than later.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Chicago needs to make some roster changes by the upcoming February 9 trade deadline, opines Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The Bulls seem to be struggling to communicate in a lot of late-game situations and are having trouble protecting the ball, Mayberry notes.
  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is doing his best to ignore the trade chatter surrounding him this season, writes Mark Potash of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t pay attention to that,” Vucevic said. “I’ve been in the league for a long time now [13 seasons]. I’ve been involved in two trades. It’s part of it, obviously. It’s not easy when you get the call and are told you’re traded — everything changes for you. But there’s nothing you can do about it. If you think about it, you’re just going to make it harder on yourself.” The 32-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer if he doesn’t sign a veteran extension with the Bulls before then.
  • Veteran Bulls reserve guard Alex Caruso weighed in on the trade rumors surrounding him in the days before the deadline, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I fully expect to be here,” Caruso said. “The coaches still seem to like me. The front office seems to like me. The players like me. As long as things are the way they are, obviously I want to win some basketball games. That’s what I came here to do, what I want to do and what makes me happiest in sports.”

Lonzo Ball Still “Nowhere Close” To Playing

Bulls coach Billy Donovan offered a pessimistic update on Lonzo Ball in Saturday’s pregame meeting with reporters and speculated that a decision on the injured guard could be coming fairly soon, tweets Julia Poe of The Chicago Tribune.

Ball hasn’t played since January of 2022 due to a torn meniscus and complications from two knee surgeries. The team hasn’t talked about a cut-off date to declare Ball out for the entire season, but Donovan said that topic will be addressed if he doesn’t show significant improvement in the next few weeks.

“Once you get out of the All-Star break, I think that, with the amount of time that’s left — you’re at the end of February, you basically have all of March and a couple of weeks, if not even two weeks in April,” Donovan said. “So if you start to get to that point, I think there will probably end up being some conversations: ‘OK, what if he’s still not close to playing? What’s the plan going forward?'”

Ball acknowledged recently that sitting out the rest of the season is a possibility. He has two years remaining on the four-year contract he inked in 2021 as part of a sign-and-trade with New Orleans and will make $20.5MM next season and $21.4MM in 2024/25.

He got off to a strong start in his first season with the Bulls, averaging 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 35 games and helping the team contend for the best record in the East. Chicago collapsed without him, falling to the sixth seed and suffering a first-round playoff elimination, and is just 22-26 so far this season.

Ball created some excitement among Bulls fans earlier this month when he posted videos on Instagram that showed him dunking and running on a treadmill. Although that was encouraging, he still experiences pain in his knee and hasn’t received medical clearance for full-speed running or cutting.

“He’s made some progress, but I’d be the first one to tell you that he’s nowhere near playing. He’s just not,” Donovan added. “Because he’s not running on a consistent basis right now. So I think, when he can get to that place where he can do that consistently and be able to come back the next day and do it again, do it again and do it again, I think you’ll feel a little bit more optimistic.”

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Vucevic, Ball, Karnisovas

Bulls All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan intends to return to action from a right quad strain on Thursday, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Chicago has gone 1-2 without the 6’6″ swingman, the team’s leading scorer and best player.

“You get a different perspective when you are sitting back and watching from afar,” DeRozan said of his absence. “We were just having too many lapses here and there, whether defensively or offensively, that put us in a hole and made it so tough for us to get back in a lot of games. And we’re still right there.”

If by “right there” he means barely in the play-in tournament bracket, then he’s right. At 20-24, the Bulls currently occupy the tenth seed in the East, though they are tied with the No. 11 Raptors.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, a trade candidate given he’s on an expiring deal, tied his career high with 43 points in a 132-118 home win over the Warriors Sunday, writes Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago. Vucevic also contributed 13 points, four assists and four steals in a well-rounded effort. “He’s so dynamic because he can shoot the three, play the pocket, he can make the floater, the hook shot,” second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu raved. “He’s got all of that in his bag. He’s also unselfish, so sometimes he gets in the pick and roll, if he doesn’t have it he hits the weakside person.”
  • Starting Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball, who has missed just over a full calendar year following complications from two knee surgeries, conceded that he may not return to the floor for Chicago this season, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I mean, naturally, yeah, everything is on a time schedule,” Ball said when asked if missing the entire season is a possibility. “I would love to play. I would never count that out. It’s a long year, I feel like we’re hitting our stride right now. So hopefully I can keep getting better, the team will keep getting better and we can meet up.” 
  • Chicago team president Arturas Karnisovas addressed fans during a recent appearance on NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Talk podcast. “I enjoy the fan base and how much they love the team and how involved they are,” Karnišovas said (h/t to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports for the transcription). “It’s not fun when we lose. I’m a very competitive person. That’s what you need to know. I don’t take losses lightly. I get emotional just like you. We’re trying to turn this around.”

Bulls Notes: Ball, Jones, Trade Assets, Donovan

Lonzo Ball isn’t close to returning, but he offered some hope to Bulls fans Friday by posting Instagram videos of himself dunking and running on a treadmill, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the torn meniscus that ended last season for Ball while the Bulls were 21-14 and fighting for the best record in the East. He was originally projected to miss six-to-eight weeks, but complications prevented him from returning at all. Those continued into the offseason and required an arthroscopic debridement in September that Ball is still working his way back from.

Coach Billy Donovan said the Instagram workouts are a sign of progress, but he cautioned that Ball still has a long way to go. He still feels discomfort in the knee, even though it has lessened, and hasn’t been medically cleared for cutting or full-speed running on the court every day.

“There’s going to be a pretty significant ramp-up period for him before he gets back on the floor,” Donovan explained. “Once they say, ‘Hey, he’s free to cut and sprint and take on contact,’ that’s just the first step of however long it’s going to take that process to get to a place where the medical guys and he feels comfortable that he’s built up enough endurance, strength and stamina that he can withstand coming back the next day and doing it again and doing it again.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Derrick Jones Jr. has seen his playing time decrease this season, but he figures to get more minutes while Javonte Green is sidelined following knee surgery, Johnson adds in a separate story. Jones welcomes the opportunity, but doesn’t like the circumstances that caused it. “I’m happy I’m in the rotation now. But I’m also sad that my guy is out. That’s my brother and I’ve always said from day one that I want to see him be great,” Jones said. “We have a great relationship. That’s my ‘dawg.’ I want him back now.”
  • In another piece, Johnson identifies DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine as Chicago’s most valuable trade assets ahead of the February 9 deadline. Alex Caruso, Nikola Vucevic and Coby White also make the list, along with a first-round pick from Portland that’s lottery-protected through 2028.
  • In the wake of Friday’s loss to Oklahoma City, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic laments the team’s lack of an identity and wonders whether Donovan has already accomplished as much as he can with the current roster.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Donovan, Ball, Green, Caruso

Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine erupted for 41 points in Friday’s win over Philadelphia, going an incredible 11-of-13 from deep. As Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes, that pushed the Bulls’ record against the Celtics, Nets, Bucks, Sixers and Heat up to 9-2, which is the polar opposite of 2021/22, when the team struggled against the East’s top teams (it’s fair to wonder whether the Heat still belong in that group at this point with a disappointing 21-19 record, but they were one shot away from the Finals last season).

However, the Bulls have been very inconsistent overall, and are currently just 18-21, the No. 9 seed in the East. LaVine was asked after the game whether he thought Chicago has shown enough to not only keep the current roster, but possibly add to it at the trade deadline as opposed to becoming a seller.

At our best, we showed what we can be last year [at this time],” LaVine said, per Cowley. “We were the No. 1 team in the East. At our best, we’re one of the best teams in the league. That’s for them to decide. . . . I’m not worried about our roster.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • As we relayed a couple days ago, head coach Billy Donovan pushed back on the notion that Zach LaVine isn’t involved in his late-game play calls, even though DeMar DeRozan has dominated the team’s shot attempts in clutch situations. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago provides more details and context on how the team operates at the end of close games, including quotes from Donovan regarding the DeRozan-LaVine dynamic.
  • Injured guard Lonzo Ball (left knee surgery) continues to make slow progress as he attempts to return to action. Donovan said on Friday night that he’s shown improvement compared to the last update, but Ball still isn’t able to run yet, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link). Ball last played on January 14, 2022 — nearly a full year ago.
  • Donovan also gave an update on forward Javonte Green, tweets Bontemps. The 29-year-old will be out for at least one more week as he continues to deal with right knee soreness, but the team is hopeful rest will help him recuperate. Green has been a key energy player off Chicago’s bench, averaging 5.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.8 SPG and 0.7 BPG on .587/.382/.674 shooting through 28 games (16.0 MPG). He has now missed 11 of the team’s past 17 games, including three straight.
  • Guard Alex Caruso, who sprained his right ankle during Wednesday’s victory over the Nets and had to exit the game early, was ruled out for Friday’s win, notes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (via Twitter). Like Green, Caruso provides a lot of energy — he’s arguably the team’s best defensive player.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Ball, Inconsistent Play

After getting off to an up-and-down start this fall and resting his surgically repaired knee multiple times in the first month of the season, Bulls guard Zach LaVine hasn’t missed a game since November 6 and appears to be hitting his stride. LaVine scored a season-high 43 points in Friday’s win over Detroit, emphatically showing that he’s in midseason form, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN.

“Go look at my last 10, 15 games,” LaVine said after the game. “I been feeling good.”

In his last 13 games, LaVine has averaged 25.5 points, 4.2 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in 35.8 minutes per night, with a scorching hot shooting line of .536/.432/.830.

One of the most encouraging signs, Collier writes, has been LaVine’s soaring field goal percentage around the rim — he has shot 79.5% in the restricted area in December, a major step up from his 58.8% mark in October and November.

“I give him a lot of credit of just sticking with the process and just continuing to work,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I think when you’re as elite as he is offensively and you start the year off the way he did offensively and just trying to find himself. He put a lot of work into it just to stay the course.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Should LaVine’s best stretch of the season restore faith in this Bulls core? That remains to be seen, but his “noticeably improved health” is the best reason for optimism that the club is better than it showed in the early part of this season, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.
  • Donovan provided an update on Lonzo Ball‘s recovery from left knee surgery on Friday, telling reporters that the point guard has been doing some light jogging, shooting, and a “little bit” of jumping while shooting, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. “(Since) we last talked, it is progressing, it’s just really slow,” Donovan said. “But there has definitely been some improvements and he’s actually doing more physically than the last time we spoke.” As Schaefer observes, there are still several major hurdles for Ball to clear in the rehab process, including sprinting, cutting, and taking contact without pain.
  • The most frustrating part of the Bulls’ season to date has been their inexplicable losses to some of the NBA’s worst teams despite impressive wins against several contenders, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago has a 5-8 record against sub-.500 opponents, including losses to Orlando, Houston, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio, but has gone 5-1 against Boston, Brooklyn, and Milwaukee, the East’s top three seeds.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Green, Ball, Trade Deadline

In the midst of giving up 150 points to the Timberwolves on Sunday, Bulls players had several angry exchanges in the locker room during halftime, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. A coach had to come into the room to settle things down, Cowley adds.

Sources told Cowley that the tension was the result of persistent defensive breakdowns over the previous five games and much of the anger was directed at Zach LaVine. Cowley notes that LaVine was playing defense at the best level of his career last season before he started developing knee pain. Teammates expected him to return to that level after knee surgery and with his new contract signed, but that hasn’t happened.

“I don’t think you can sit there and point at every defensive breakdown and say ‘Hey, that’s on Zach’ or ‘It’s all DeMar (DeRozan),” coach Billy Donovan said. “No, it’s all of us. We’re all together. And we as coaches play a part in it, too, constantly trying to create the clarity for him as in, ‘This is what we’re doing, and can we do it at a high enough level?'”

LaVine dismissed the incident after Tuesday’s win at Miami, Cowley states in a separate story.

“Something that happens all the time in our locker room,’’ he said. “Multiple guys talking; multiple guys frustrated. That’s what’s supposed to happen; it’s a basketball team. Not the first time, not the last time. It’s just you guys hear it. It’s nothing new to us.’’

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Javonte Green continues to battle right knee soreness, Cowley adds, and is missing his sixth straight game tonight. Donovan said Green is making progress, but he still feels pain in the knee whenever the team tries to increase his activity in rehab.
  • Lonzo Ball didn’t offer many specifics when he talked to reporters Tuesday after the condition of his left knee, but he sounded positive about the rehab process, per Rob Schafer of NBC Sports Chicago. Ball, who underwent surgery in September, said he has been able to do some stationary shooting drills. However, he still has pain in the knee, which causes mobility issues. “Last couple weeks, I’m finally seeing some improvement, which is nice to see,” he said. “It’s still not obviously where I want to be. But it’s definitely positive light at the end of the tunnel.”
  • Rival executives believe the Bulls should be sellers heading into the trade deadline, but they’re not sure that Chicago’s front office agrees, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso could all be in demand, and some teams may be watching LaVine as well, although his injury history and $215MM extension could make him tough to deal. According to Pincus, the belief among representatives at the Winter Showcase in Las Vegas is that Chicago hasn’t made an effort to trade any of its top players.

Eastern Notes: Collins, Murray, Durant, Claxton, Ball

Hawks forward John Collins could return to action on Monday, Lauren Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Collins is listed as questionable to play against Orlando. Collins has been sidelined by a left ankle sprain since the beginning of the month. At that time, he was expected to miss at least two weeks, so he has progressed on schedule.

Collins is having a down season by his standards — through 22 games (31.5 MPG), he’s averaging 12.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 1.4 BPG on .484/.219/.845 shooting. The Hawks big man has been the subject of numerous trade rumors and his return to action could facilitate a potential deal.

Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (left ankle sprain) is also listed as questionable. He hasn’t played since departing early against the Knicks on Dec. 7.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The red-hot Nets are playing at Detroit on Sunday and Kevin Durant believes the team has turned the corner, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. They entered the game against the Pistons on a five-game winning streak. “Yeah, we just figured out, we’re understanding the way we want to play,” Durant said. “That’s always the good part about finding your identity in the league is that now you can start relaxing a bit going into games, preparing. It’s cool because you know your role, you understand exactly how we want to play.”
  • Nets big man Nic Claxton isn’t bashful when discussing his defensive prowess. Claxton believes he should be in the discussion for the Defensive Player of the Year award, he said in a YES Network interview (hat tip to NetsDaily.com). “Honestly, I feel that I am one of the best defenders in the league. I feel I should be in the top for the Defensive Player of the Year,” he said. “I feel like I wasn’t getting the respect I deserve. We’re winning, my numbers are good protecting the rim, guarding 1 through 5.” Claxton is averaging 2.3 blocks, including a season-high six against Toronto on Friday.
  • Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is “progressing towards (running),” coach Billy Donovan told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) and other media members. There’s no timetable on when he’ll be cleared to try running. Ball will require a “significant ramp-up” period for conditioning after he starts running before he can finally return to action. Ball hasn’t played since January due to persistent knee issues.

Woj: “No Guarantees” Lonzo Ball Plays In 2022/23

Prior to the Bulls‘ matchup with New York on Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided a gloomy update on point guard Lonzo Ball‘s status for the 2022/23 season.

Ball, who has yet to play this season, continues to be hampered by left knee pain despite two surgeries to address the issue in the past year. The first surgery was to repair a torn meniscus in January, and the second was an arthroscopic debridement procedure in September, which involves removing foreign objects or damaged/dead tissue from a wound.

There are no guarantees, I’m told, that he plays at all this season.” Wojnarowski said on NBA Countdown (video link). “He’s rehabbing that knee now, he’s still feeling some pain in it. I think the hope is, that perhaps by the All-Star break in mid-February, that they have a sense of whether Lonzo Ball is ready to come back and play for Chicago.

A lot of that may depend on where are the Bulls in the standings. Right now they’re 11th, they’re out of the playoff picture. I think if they’re lingering around that area, there will be a real decision to be made about whether he plays at all.”

Wojnarowski added that the Bulls will be faced with a lot of difficult decisions ahead of the trade deadline if the team continues to struggle, but “there’s no expectation you’ll see him (Ball), at least perhaps, until around the All-Star break.”

The last official update on Ball’s status came at the end of November, when coach Billy Donovan said that the guard’s rehab process had been going “really slow.” He added that Ball, who last played in January, was “not even close” to running, jumping or cutting.

Prior to Ball’s second surgery, ESPN reported that he visited “multiple specialists” in an attempt to figure out what was causing the discomfort in his knee and to explore possible treatments. At the time, a source told ESPN that the knee was “structurally sound,” but Ball’s pain hadn’t subsided after a summer of rest and rehab.

Ball has dealt with injuries throughout his six-year career, but this is by far his longest absence. The former No. 2 overall pick had a promising start with the Bulls last season, averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.8 SPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 42.3% from three-point range and playing strong defense in 35 games (34.6 MPG).

Scotto’s Latest: Bulls, Mavs, Suns, Muscala, Wright

A number of NBA executives who have spoken to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype are “closely monitoring” the Bulls, Scotto told co-host Yossi Gozlan in the latest episode of the HoopsHype podcast. With Chicago off to an underwhelming 9-14 start and with no indication of when Lonzo Ball might be back on the court, teams are curious to see whether the club might become a seller.

There’s “a lot” of league-wide interest in DeMar DeRozan, according to Scotto, who says Nikola Vucevic is another name that figures to pop up in trade rumors over the next couple months. Scotto adds that some teams would have interest in Zach LaVine too, but the Bulls seem unlikely to move him midway through the first season of a five-year, maximum-salary contract.

Having signed with the Bulls over the summer, Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond will become trade-eligible on December 15, and Scotto suggests they could be worth keeping an eye on if Chicago does decide to sell, since both players are low-cost veterans who could slide into rotation roles on playoff teams.

Here are a few more highlights from the podcast:

  • With JaVale McGee out of the rotation, it’s possible the Mavericks could peruse the trade market in search of another center. According to Scotto, if Dallas does look into that possibility, any trade target would have to be an upgrade defensively and a contrast to Christian Wood.
  • Scotto has heard from some executives that the Suns ideally don’t want to add any extra salary to their books in a Jae Crowder trade. Crowder is on an expiring $10.2MM deal.
  • Thunder big man Mike Muscala drew interest from about 10 teams as a free agent this past offseason, so if Oklahoma City is willing to make him available, he’d likely be a popular low-cost target, says Scotto. Due to the terms of his contract, Muscala has the ability to veto any trade that involves him.
  • The Wizards hope to get Delon Wright within the next two weeks, per Scotto. A weekend report suggested the veteran guard could even be back in action this week.