Lonzo Ball

Central Notes: Ball, Clarkson, Bogdanovic, Livers, Vucevic, Caruso

There’s confidence that Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball will return at some point this season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Ball underwent another left knee surgery on Wednesday and doctors are optimistic the issue has been fully addressed. However, he’s going to be out a number of months, Charania adds.

Ball was still unable to “run or jump” entering training camp despite a lengthy rehab from two previous procedures this year.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks showed a lot of interest in trading for the Jazz‘s Jordan Clarkson but the Jazz balked at Milwaukee’s proposal, Tony Jones of The Athletic said on the Bill Riley Show podcast (hat tip to HoopsHype). Utah was uninterested at taking back George Hill‘s contract, which Jones described as a non-starter in trade discussions. One of the league’s top scoring reserves, Clarkson averaged 16 points last season. He has two years left on his four-year, $51.52MM contract. Hill has an expiring $4MM contract, so Milwaukee would have still needed to send out more salary in a potential trade.
  • The Lakers and Suns were among the teams reportedly pursuing Bojan Bogdanovic but he wound up getting traded to the Pistons. The former Jazz forward says he wasn’t concerned where he ended up, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com“I didn’t have any preference,” Bogdanovic said. “There’s a lot of rumors. Who knows if that’s true or not? I’m super happy and excited to be part of the Pistons.”
  • Pistons forward Isaiah Livers wound up playing 19 games during his rookie season after recovering from a foot injury. He’s aiming to become a regular part of the rotation this season, he told James Edwards III of The Athletic. “I wanted to build off those last 19, 20 games,” the 2021 second-round pick said. “Coaches and everyone seemed to love the way that I was playing. It was working effectively.”
  • There was heavy speculation that Bulls center Nikola Vucevic would be part of a package to acquire Rudy Gobert during the offseason. Vucevic had serious doubts that would happen and was proven correct when Gobert was dealt to Minnesota, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “Rumors are a part of what we do,’’ said Vucevic, who is on an expiring contract. “Whether they’re true or not, it’s out of my control. I focus on what I can control, and, in the end, I had some fun with [the Jazz rumors]. At no point did I feel it was going to happen.’’
  • Bulls guard Alex Caruso is one of the candidates to replace Ball in the starting lineup as he mends from his latest knee surgery, but that’s not Caruso’s focus, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. “It won’t be a conversation I’ll have with Billy (Donovan). He might have it with me depending on what we need,” Caruso said. “But I’ve always been team-first trying to win games. If that’s me starting basketball games then that’s what we’ll do. If that’s me coming off the bench, that’s fine too. I’ve always been I’d rather finish games than start games.

Central Notes: Ball, LaVine, Nwora, Pistons

Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is scheduled to undergo another procedure on his troublesome left knee on Wednesday after spending the entire offseason trying to recover from the injury without surgery. Speaking on Tuesday to reporters, Ball discussed the decision to go back under the knife, explaining that the knee continues to bother him even when he’s doing day-to-day activities like walking up the stairs.

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have no force and I can’t catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The injury has bothered Ball for far longer than he or the Bulls expected, with the point guard suggesting on Tuesday that his condition and his symptoms have left his doctors “a little surprised.” Ball is hopeful that Wednesday’s procedure will shed more light on the issue.

“From my understanding they’re going in there to see what it is because it’s not necessarily showing up on the MRI,” Ball said. “But it’s clear that there’s something there that’s not right. So they’re going to go in, look at it, and whatever needs to be done is going to be done.”

As Schaefer writes in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story, Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said on Monday that a recovery timeline for Ball remains unknown, and that the four-to-six week timeline the team announced last week is just for a reevaluation — the 24-year-old is not expected to be ready to return at that point.

Ominously, when asked on Tuesday if he needs to view Ball’s absence as a potential season-long issue, head coach Billy Donovan replied, “I think you have to” (Twitter link via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic). That could just be a matter of Donovan preparing for a worse-case scenario, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • While Ball’s knee injury continues to be a problem, fellow Bulls guard Zach LaVine said that his own knee – which he underwent arthroscopic surgery on in the spring – feels “really good.” Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times has the story and the quotes from LaVine.
  • Playing strong defense will be crucial for Jordan Nwora as he looks to earn a regular spot in the Bucks‘ rotation this season, head coach Mike Budenholzer said on Monday (link via Eric Nehm of The Athletic). “He’s maturing and he understands it’s a big priority for us for him to get on the court, for him to help us,” Budenholzer said. “Everybody’s gotta be able to defend at a high level. He’s gotta prove it now, every day in camp, and he’s off to a good start.”
  • Nwora, who just re-signed with the Bucks on a two-year deal, will have guaranteed base salaries of $2.8MM and $3MM on his new deal, with additional bonuses of $200K per year if the team gets to the second round of the playoffs, reports ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter links). As Nehm relays, Nwora referred to restricted free agency as “kind of a blessing and curse” and praised the job his agent and the front office did to make a deal.
  • The Pistons made a series of intriguing roster additions this summer, drafting Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren and trading for Bojan Bogdanovic. But in their comments to the media on Monday, general manager Troy Weaver and head coach Dwane Casey both stressed the importance of “internal growth,” writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “We’re hoping that our players in-house can continue to grow and develop at a pace that allows us to push and grow and compete, and then contend the way we want to,” Weaver said.

Lonzo Ball To Miss At Least 4-6 Weeks Following Procedure on Left Knee

Bulls guard Lonzo Ball will undergo an arthroscopic debridement of his left knee, the team announced on Twitter.

The procedure is scheduled for September 28 in Los Angeles, and Ball’s condition will be reevaluated in four to six weeks. Debridement involves removing foreign objects or damaged/dead tissue from a wound.

A report earlier this month indicated that Ball was likely to miss training camp due to persistent pain in the knee, which was surgically repaired in January. He and the Bulls have decided to address the problem with a surgical procedure, even though his prognosis ensures he will miss the start of the regular season.

Ball’s knee issues date back to a torn meniscus that limited him to just 35 games last season. He was originally projected to return a few weeks after the surgery, but a bone bruise disrupted his rehab process.

ESPN recently reported that Ball has visited “multiple specialists” in an attempt to figure out what’s causing the discomfort in his knee and to explore possible treatments. A source told ESPN that the knee is “structurally sound,” but the pain hasn’t subsided after a summer of rest and rehab.

Before the injury, Ball played an important role in leading the Bulls’ early-season charge. He averaged 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists while providing a strong defensive presence in Chicago’s backcourt.

Central Notes: Bagley, Knox, Hayes, Pacers, Ball, Pistons

Breakout seasons from Marvin Bagley III, Kevin Knox and Killian Hayes would go a long way toward a much improved season for the Pistons, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. All three lottery picks have yet to fulfill their promise but could become part of the team’s core group if they establish a firm foothold in the NBA this season.

Bagley was re-signed on a three-year, $37MM deal this summer, while Knox received a two-year, $6MM contract after passing through two organizations. Hayes is entering his third year with the Pistons and projects as the second-unit floor leader.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers announced the signing of forwards James Johnson and Bennie Boatwright and guards David Stockton and Gabe York on Friday. Hoops Rumors has learned Johnson was signed to an Exhibit 9 contract while Boatwright, Stockton and York signed Exhibit 10 deals. An Exhibit 9 contract must be for one season and for a minimum salary. Generally speaking, if a player only receives an Exhibit 9 clause and not an Exhibit 10, it signals he won’t be joining the team’s G League affiliate if he’s waived before the season begins. Johnson spent most of last season in Brooklyn, averaging 5.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.1 APG in 62 appearances (19.2 MPG).
  • Lonzo Ball‘s recovery from his persistent knee issues remains fluid, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. The reason the Bulls haven’t officially put a timeline on Ball’s return is that they don’t really know when he’ll be back. Some days when Ball works out, everything seems fine. Other times, the knee flares up again. Ball, who hasn’t played since January, is doubtful for the start of the season.
  • The Athletic’s Zach Harper gives the Pistons a B-plus grade for their offseason maneuvers. Adding point guard Jaden Ivey with their lottery pick, then trading for another to snare center Jalen Duren were the highlights of their offseason moves, with only the Knox addition ranking as a head-scratcher, according to Harper.

Central Notes: Hayes, Ball, Bucks, G League Trade

Killian Hayes has to make progress as a scorer to show the Pistons he should be part of their long-term plans, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. After injuries limited him to 26 games as a rookie, Hayes bounced back to play in 66 last season, showing the defensive and passing skills that made him the No. 7 overall pick in 2020.

However, his scoring development remained stagnant as he averaged 6.9 PPG in 25 minutes per night while shooting 38.3% from the field and 26.3% from three-point range. Edwards believes Hayes needs to become more aggressive in getting to the basket, noting that he made 74% of his attempts at the rim last season, but that only accounted for 16% of his shots.

Edwards poses questions involving other Pistons players, asking whether Isaiah Stewart has become a legitimate three-point shooter, whether Saddiq Bey can balance his performance from his first two seasons and whether Saben Lee can find a way to stand out on a roster loaded with guards.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Lonzo Ball tops a list of Bulls players with the most to prove compiled by Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Ball may be held out through the start of the regular season because of pain in his surgically repaired left knee. The Bulls insist the knee is structurally sound, but his availability will play a massive role in where the team finishes in the Eastern Conference. Mayberry adds that the team also needs a bounce-back performance from center Nikola Vucevic, who’s heading into a contract year.
  • Unlike most of their competitors in the East, the Bucks didn’t make major changes this offseason and can rely on continuity as they make a run at another NBA title, per Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. Milwaukee still has the defensive foundation to contend for a championship, Gozlan adds, and Giannis Antetokounmpo remains one of the best players in the world. One financial concern that Gozlan points out is that the Bucks appear destined for the repeater tax next season, while Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will both become unrestricted free agents in July if they don’t receive extensions.
  • In a press release, the Cleveland Charge – The Cavaliers‘ G League affiliate – announced the trade of Norvel Pelle and the Charge’s second-round pick to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (the Pacers‘ affiliate) in exchange for Nate Hinton.

Central Notes: Connaughton, Ball, Cunningham

Pat Connaughton believes he could have gotten more money in free agency but he wanted to stay with the Bucks. That’s why he exercised his contract option this summer before signing an extension, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes.

“I think I have the opportunity to potentially make a little bit more elsewhere, but for me, to prolong my career, how do you keep yourself in a position where they value what I do? I value winning,” he said. “I value my teammates and the culture that we’ve built, the organization, the management, the ownership, all of it.”

Connaughton, who received a three-year extension worth $28.3MM in July, added that the team is hungry after getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Celtics last season.

“I think we have a group of guys that are excited to get back out there and excited to play with a chip on our shoulder and not have that same taste in our mouths,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I’ll never forget sitting in Boston after Game 7. You use that as fuel, you use that as hunger and you take a slow, methodical approach to this offseason to making sure you’re putting yourself in the best position to come out on top again.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls are expected to be without their starting point guard, Lonzo Ball, in the early portion of the season due to lingering pain in his surgically repaired left knee. ESPN’s Jamal Collier takes an in-depth look at Ball’s knee issues. Ball hasn’t taken the court since mid-January after originally receiving a projected recovery timeline of eight weeks.
  • The biggest question regarding Pistons guard Cade Cunningham this season is whether he can develop a consistent 3-point shot, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. Edwards also considers what second-year forward Isaiah Livers and lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren must prove in order for Detroit to be a surprise team this season.
  • In case you missed it, the Pistons officially signed Micah Potter to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Bulls Notes: Ball, Williams, Caruso, Dosunmu

The Bulls are playing the long game with Lonzo Ball and his health, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

A report surfaced on Friday that Ball is expected to miss training camp and won’t be ready to go for the season opener.

However, Ball’s situation may not be as ominous as that sounds, Johnson writes. The team has worked in concert with Ball’s specialists this offseason and remain confident his left knee will continue to improve. The knee itself is reportedly structurally sound but the bone bruise he suffered, which occurred before his meniscus tear in January, is what continues to gives Ball pain.

With Goran Dragić, Coby White, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and rookie Dalen Terry on the roster, Chicago has enough depth to take a cautious approach with Ball.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • The team is banking on a big jump from Patrick Williams, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Williams must pump up his scoring and rebounding numbers while hounding the opposing team’s best forward on the defensive end. The No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft, who missed most of last season due to a wrist injury, has been busy this offseason playing in Pro-Ams and some pick-up games against NBA stars.
  • Injuries took a toll on the team last season, Caruso admits in an interview with Ethan Fuller of Basketball News“Obviously, we have a little bit of bad luck with injuries last year. That doesn’t help,” Caruso said. “I think in the beginning of the year, we were first in the East, we had a great defensive rating [and the] offense was doing everything they needed to do as far as moving the ball, creating open shots. And then, through a little bit of adversity in the year, we dropped a little bit of discipline in certain areas of the game.
  • In the same piece, Caruso praises Dosunmu for the way he held his own defensively in his rookie campaign. “Ayo was, basically all last year, just playing off the feel,” Caruso said. “Your first year in the league, you don’t understand concepts really. You don’t understand coverages. You’re seeing guys play, and you’re playing against guys for the first time. You’re seeing their best moves for the first time; they’re probably going to beat you most of the time. So for him to be able to compete the way he did last year on defense is a great sign for a guy in his first year.”

Lonzo Ball Expected To Miss Camp, Doubtful For Start Of Season

Bulls guard Lonzo Ball continues to experience pain and discomfort in his surgically repaired left knee and is expected to miss training camp, sources tell Jamal Collier and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. According to ESPN’s duo, he’s also considered doubtful for the start of the 2022/23 regular season, which begins on October 18.

Ball had surgery in January for a torn meniscus and was originally expected to return before the end of last season. However, a bone bruise interfered with his rehab process, and unfortunately it appears as though it might still be impacting his recovery.

According to ESPN’s duo, Ball has seen “multiple specialists” in an effort to determine the cause of the lingering pain and discomfort, and to seek possible treatments. A source tells Collier and Shelburne that Ball’s knee is “structurally sound,” but he continued to struggle with the knee this summer while rehabbing in Los Angeles.

Ball will be evaluated by team doctors in Chicago next week, per ESPN.

The Bulls have been vague regarding Ball’s status throughout the offseason, with coach Billy Donovan and executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas saying that he was “progressing” back in July, but they did concede that his recovery was going slower than they’d hoped, and evidently that’s still the case.

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago recently said on the Bulls Talk podcast that the team appeared to be a bit more optimistic about the 24-year-old lately, though he cautioned that the situation remained fluid.

“I’m not saying that means he’s out there opening night. I’m not saying he’s playing all 82,” Johnson said. “What I’m saying is the skepticism that was earlier in the offseason has moved a little bit toward the optimism side.”

It sounds as though Johnson’s report is right on the money, with Ball’s status for the season opener very much in jeopardy.

Ball had a major impact on the Bulls when he was healthy last season, averaging 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 42.3% from three-point range and playing strong defense in 35 games (34.6 minutes).

As Collier and Shelburne note, the Bulls were 27-13 when Ball played his last game on January 14, but faltered down the stretch, going just 19-23 the rest of the way before losing their first-round playoff series against Milwaukee.

Central Notes: Ball, Westbrook, Turner, Mobley

The Bulls have become more optimistic about the condition of Lonzo Ball‘s injured left knee, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago said on the Bulls Talk podcast, though he cautioned that it’s still a “fluid situation.” Johnson added that it’s still impossible to determine when Ball will be ready to play, but the last two times he has checked with the team, the reports have been more positive than negative.

“I’m not saying that means he’s out there opening night. I’m not saying he’s playing all 82,” Johnson said. “What I’m saying is the skepticism that was earlier in the offseason has moved a little bit toward the optimism side.”

Ball had surgery in January for a torn meniscus and was originally expected to return before the end of the season. A bone bruise interfered with his rehab process, and there’s still not a definite timetable for him with training camp less than four weeks away.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers should aggressively pursue a Russell Westbrook trade with the Lakers, argues Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. Doyel doesn’t expect Westbrook to become a star again in Indiana, but he says taking on the $47MM expiring contract would be worth it to get L.A.’s first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. Doyel also points to Myles Turner and Buddy Hield as the best return the Lakers are likely to get for Westbrook. Doyel adds that the value of the two first-rounders is that they can be moved in other deals to help build around Tyrese Haliburton.
  • Turner, who’s headed for free agency in 2023, is expected to want more than $20MM a year in his next contract, according to Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype. That price will affect his trade value as the Pacers look for potential deals.
  • Cavaliers associate head coach Greg Buckner calls Evan Mobley “H.O.F.” and believes he can develop into one of the best players in league history (audio link from Mat Issa of Basketball News). “Evan’s a worker, by all means,” Buckner said. “I think Evan, when it’s all said and done, will be a top-20 player [all-time], if he stays healthy.”

Central Notes: Ball, Portis, Walton, Pacers

Echoing Billy Donovan‘s update on Sunday, Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said that Lonzo Ball is “progressing” from his left knee injury. However, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes, Karnisovas’ comments on Ball were somewhat sobering.

“He’s getting better. Probably not at the speed that we would like. But he’s getting better,” Karnisovas said of Ball. “Hopefully, he’s going to be ready for training camp. That’s just our hopes.”

Ball, who underwent surgery on a torn left meniscus in January, was bothered by a bone bruise when he attempted to ramp up his rehab process last season. According to Johnson, Ball has experienced “similar starts and stops” this offseason and still sometimes experiences discomfort when he increases his workload.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After years of betting on himself with shorter-term contracts and team-friendly salaries, Bucks big man Bobby Portis was thrilled to be rewarded in free agency this summer with a four-year, $48MM+ deal, as he tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “Finally being able to have financial security for not only myself, but my family, is great,” Portis said. “To be able to go into free agency and have a number of teams call and believe that I’m special and want me to join their team, that was cool too.” Portis added that he decided to re-sign with the Bucks in part because his two years in Milwaukee have made him not only a better player but a “better man off the court.”
  • New Cavaliers assistant Luke Walton spoke to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic about his decision to join J.B. Bickerstaff‘s staff in Cleveland, noting that he appreciates the level of continuity he sees in the franchise. “There’s a lot of people that are still working here that were here when I played here 10 years ago – which is rare in the NBA,” Walton said. “To me, it’s something that’s very important when you’re trying to build a winning team and a winning culture.”
  • We’re still waiting to see how Deandre Ayton‘s free agency will play out, but the Pacers make a lot of sense as a potential destination for the former top pick, according to Dan Devine of The Ringer. Adding Ayton would give Tyrese Haliburton an ideal pick-and-roll partner and would put Indiana on track to quickly pivot back to respectability, Devine writes.