Lonzo Ball

Central Notes: Eversley, Bulls, Pacers, Pistons

Bulls general manager Marc Eversley, who reportedly received consideration from Detroit and Charlotte when those teams sought new heads of basketball operations earlier this year, recently signed a new three-year contract with Chicago that will begin in July, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Eversley, who was hired by the Bulls in 2020, has served since then as the front office’s No. 2 executive under head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

The Athletic’s report on Eversley’s contract situation comes within a larger look at some key questions facing the Bulls this offseason, as Mayberry considers what the future holds for DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball, among others. Mayberry speculates that if the Bulls want to do a short-term deal for DeRozan, they may have to offer upwards of $40MM annually; he also suggests that team officials seem less optimistic than Ball about his ability to be ready to go on opening night in 2024/25.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • This year’s Pacers have been likened by some to the 2021 Hawks, who unexpectedly made the Eastern Conference finals but haven’t won a playoff series since then, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. However, Tyrese Haliburton believes the 2010-14 Pacers (who won five total playoff series and made the Eastern Conference finals twice) are a better reference point for Indiana’s current team, adding that he and his teammates will be fueled by the skepticism about their staying power. “We’re a group of guys that are really motivated by negativity, motivated by being doubted,” Haliburton said. “That’s how a lot of us guys are motivated. I’m really excited to go into this next year with, ‘The Pacers made the Eastern Conference finals. Can they do it again? They probably can’t. They’re this, they’re that.’ That’s exciting for our group.”
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required) poses five crucial questions for new Pistons president Trajan Langdon to consider, including whether the Cade Cunningham/Jaden Ivey backcourt duo can work long-term, whether Jalen Duren is a franchise center, and whether this offseason is the right time to take a big swing.
  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic takes a look at Langdon’s draft history as the Pelicans’ general manager to get a sense of what sort of player the Pistons might target at No. 5. In Edwards’ view, a “long, rangy” wing could be Detroit’s preference, with Matas Buzelis among the prospects who could be a fit in at No. 5.

Lonzo Ball: I Expect To Play First Game Of 2024/25 Season

Asked during the latest episode of his What An Experience podcast whether he expects to be on the court for the Bulls on opening night next season, Lonzo Ball expressed confidence that he’ll be ready to go (YouTube link).

“Yes, I firmly believe that,” said Ball, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since January 14, 2022. “That’s the plan that I’m on and I haven’t had any setbacks, so I expect to play the first game.”

Ball has undergone a series of surgeries on his left knee in recent years and was unavailable for the second half of the 2021/22 campaign, as well as each of the two subsequent seasons. His most recent procedure, in 2023, was described as a cartilage transplant. The former No. 2 overall pick went into more detail on his podcast about what exactly that surgery entailed and how he got to that point.

“To make a long story short, ultimately, it started with the meniscus tear,” Ball said. “It started on the Lakers when I tore it the first time (in 2018). Tore it a couple more times to a point to where there was, basically, not much meniscus left and bone on bone was rubbing. The cartilage was gone and the bone was messed up, so I had to get a new meniscus from a donor. I had to get a bone allograft and I had to get some new cartilage put in as well. All that finally healed up and now I’m back on the court.”

Ball initially went under the knife to address a meniscus tear in early 2022 before undergoing an arthroscopic debridement in September of that year. He suffered setbacks during those recovery processes, but he’s confident that the third surgery better addressed the root of the issue in his knee.

“I would say we’re, what, 14, 15 months in now?” Ball said, referring to his recovery from the March 2023 procedure. “The stuff before that, we were trying to figure out what the problem was, so that was a wasted year.”

Ball exercised his $21.4MM player option for the 2024/25 season last month, so he’ll be on Chicago’s roster in the fall as long as he’s not traded or waived during the offseason. Young guards like Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu have enjoyed breakout seasons and have taken on larger roles since Ball last suited up for the Bulls, but the team would presumably be eager to find minutes for the 26-year-old if he can perform at anywhere near the level he did during his first half-season with the franchise.

Ball averaged 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.8 steals in 34.6 minutes per game across 35 appearances in 2021/22 before being sidelined. The Bulls went 22-13 in those games.

Central Notes: Ball, Mitchell, Pacers, Haliburton, Turner

Lonzo Ball continues to make positive forward progress in his rehab from the latest procedure on his knee, the Bulls guard said in the first episode of his What An Experience podcast (hat tip to Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago). Asked at the start of the show to provide an update on his status, Ball said it’s “coming along week by week.”

“It’s improving, so that’s all I can ask for,” Ball said. “It’s still not where I want it to be. Out of 100 (percent), I’d probably say I’m about 70 (percent). Good enough to play, but can still get better. I still got a long summer ahead of me. But definitely looking forward to the future.”

Ball has undergone three separate surgeries on his knee since last playing in an NBA game in 2022. He experienced setbacks during his first two rehab processes, but there was optimism following his cartilage transplant in 2023 that the third surgery would be the one that allowed him to make a full recovery and eventually get back on the court. While there’s still a ways to go to make that a reality, this appears to be the closest Ball has come to getting healthy in the past two-and-a-half years, Taylor notes.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • With the Cavaliers on the brink of elimination, Brian Windhorst appeared on ESPN’s Get Up (Twitter video link) to discuss what this offseason might look like for the team and star guard Donovan Mitchell. As Windhorst notes, the front office will have a difficult decision to make if Mitchell claims publicly that he’s happy in Cleveland and doesn’t ask to be dealt, but also doesn’t sign an extension entering a potential contract year. “I’m trying to walk the line because I don’t want anybody to freak out in my home town of Cleveland, but there are a number of teams that have their (trade) offers ready,” Windhorst said, identifying the Lakers and Nets as a couple of the clubs expected to pursue Mitchell if the Cavs consider moving him.
  • Rick Carlisle was disappointed with the Pacers‘ complete level in Tuesday’s Game 5 blowout loss to the Knicks, referring to their effort as “very poor,” according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. “Lost every quarter. Got annihilated on loose balls and rebounds,” Indiana’s head coach said in his postgame media session. “… We all own it, but very embarrassing.” Carlisle added that it was a “hard lesson” to learn for an Indiana team that doesn’t have much experience playing together on this sort of stage. “There’s no excuses, but all the guys on our roster, I believe it’s the first time they’ve been in a Game 5 tied 2-2 and going on the road,” he told reporters. “So you learn a lot in those situations very quickly. … This is a different circumstance. As a playoff series progresses, it’s going to be harder and harder.”
  • Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and center Myles Turner took their share of responsibility for the team’s poor showing on Tuesday, as Dopirak details in a pair of Indy Star stories. Haliburton, who attempted just nine shots and scored 13 points, said he has to “do a better job of being aggressive,” while Turner told the media he has to be more assertive on the boards after grabbing just five rebounds. “I know I didn’t do my job and I need to personalize that going into the next game,” Turner said after Indiana was out-rebounded 53-29. “I take full ownership, and it starts with me down there on a lot of that stuff.”

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball Picks Up 2024/25 Player Option

Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball has exercised his player option for 2024/25, locking in his $21.4MM salary for next season, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

The decision was a no-brainer, given that Ball hasn’t played a game since January 2022 due to knee problems. He has undergone a series of procedures on his troublesome left knee, including receiving a cartilage transplant in 2023.

There’s hope that the latest of those surgeries will help get him back on the court next season, but given the uncertainty surrounding his prognosis, there’s obviously no chance that Ball would have been able to exceed $21.4MM on the open market if he had declined his option in favor of free agency.

Ball spent two seasons with the Lakers and two more with the Pelicans before being sent from New Orleans to Chicago in a sign-and-trade deal during the 2021 offseason.

During the first half of his first season as a Bull, Ball looked like a steal on his new four-year, $80MM contract, making a major two-way impact as the team’s starting point guard. He averaged 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.8 steals in 34.6 minutes per game across 35 appearances before being sidelined. The Bulls went 22-13 in those games, but haven’t had the former No. 2 overall pick available in the two-plus years since then.

Ball picking up his player option doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be on the Bulls’ roster in 2024/25. If his injury is ultimately deemed to be career-ending by a Fitness to Play panel, the club would be permitted to let him go without his $21.4MM cap hit counting against its books. It’s also possible the 26-year-old could be included in a trade for salary-matching purposes, given that his contract isn’t as onerous now that it’s expiring.

If Ball remains on the roster and his recovery continues to progress as hoped, it’s possible we’ll see him in a Bulls uniform again next season. During his lengthy absence, younger guards like Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu have emerged as reliable backcourt contributors in Chicago, but if Ball looks anything like he did before his injury, he’d be worthy of rotation minutes.

Arturas Karnisovas Admits Changes Are Necessary In Chicago

After watching his team get eliminated in the play-in round for the second straight season, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promised that changes are coming, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Addressing reporters today in the wake of Friday’s loss at Miami, Karnisovas sounded ready for a major roster shake-up.

“I’ve said numerous times today: This group, something doesn’t work. I have to find ways to find a group that’s going to make improvements. We’ve done it for a couple years now and it hasn’t worked,” Karnisovas said. “Everything is on the table. I am going to look at totality of the group. This group hasn’t worked. There’s a lot of great things in certain individual players and a lot of young guys who took a step forward and it’s positive. But in totality as a group, it didn’t work. So I’m going to have to find these answers in offseason.”

Presumably that will start with Zach LaVine, whom the team tried to move last fall before injuries derailed his season. Multiple outlets have reported that Karnisovas will make another attempt this summer to find a taker for LaVine, who has three years and about $138MM left on his contract, including a nearly $49MM player option for 2026/27.

Although Karnisovas emphasized the need for change at today’s press conference, Johnson states that he repeated his commitment to re-sign free agents DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams. A source tells Johnson that the team recently offered DeRozan a two-year extension in the neighborhood of $40MM per season. DeRozan reportedly wants a longer deal, but Johnson suggests that could just be a negotiating tactic.

“DeMar’s been great for us for three years,” Karnisovas said. “He’s been invested in the city of Chicago and has been really great to our young guys. So both sides are interested in continuing and we’ll see what happens in free agency.”

Johnson notes that giving new contracts to DeRozan and Williams without trading LaVine means the Bulls would start next season in luxury tax territory. Karnisovas expressed a willingness to pay the tax, but only for a contender, which heightens the need to move LaVine’s contract.

“My approach looking at the luxury tax is if you can prove that your team is going to be in the top four, you go in the luxury tax,” he said. “It just makes no sense to be in play-in if you’re going to be in the luxury tax. As long as I can put a team together that is going to be competing top four in the East, that’s when you start look at retaining guys and go in the luxury tax.” 

Karnisovas also addressed the status of Lonzo Ball, saying the organization will monitor his progress during the offseason, but he’s had no setbacks so far in his latest attempt to return from knee issues that have sidelined him since January of 2022. While Karnisovas didn’t address the possibility, Johnson points out that the Bulls stand to receive $21MM in cap relief if Ball can’t return and an independent doctor declares the injury to be career-ending.

Karnisovas said there’s no plan to replace coach head coach Billy Donovan, who is fresh off an extension and recently stated that he’s not interested in returning to college coaching when his name was floated as a possibility for Kentucky. Although Karnisovas remains loyal to Donovan, Johnson speculates there could be some changes to his staff.

“I like what Billy has done here the last four years. Billy is someone you build a program with,” Karnisovas said. “He’s a very good coach and even a better human being. We established a winning expectation, we defined a profile for the Bulls player and we put an emphasis on player development. It is also on me to facilitate Billy with the resources he needs to build a team that can be successful consistently.”

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, LaVine, Offseason, Ball, Roster

The Bulls fell to the Heat in blowout fashion on Friday, ending their postseason hopes and sending the franchise into an offseason filled with questions about the long-term futures of franchise centerpieces DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. DeRozan, an unrestricted free agent, has repeatedly emphasized his desire to remain in Chicago. But on Friday, DeRozan sounded like a possible return would be contingent on change, NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson writes.

That’s still where I’m at,” he said about wanting to remain in Chicago. “But at the end of the day, I hate losing. I hate missing opportunities. It really hits you after the season when you look up and the last seconds run off. You don’t have another game. The next time I play a game will be my 16th season. You realize the window closes for you personally. I ain’t trying to play 25 years. You just want to have the opportunity to give everything great in you. My stance on wanting to be here is still the same. But I just want to win. Seeing the first round of the playoffs, the second round of the playoffs is frustrating.

Teammates and coaches like Coby White and Billy Donovan are emphatic about wanting DeRozan to return. Donovan in particular noted Chicago’s injuries as an inhibiting factor regarding its ability to compete. Both he and general manager Arturas Karnisovas discussed the importance of continuity. DeRozan, though, said he wants the Bulls to field a competitive roster that isn’t just contending for the play-in next year, though he acknowledged Chicago’s poor injury luck.

As for LaVine, the two-time All-Star was involved in trade speculation this year before undergoing season-ending foot surgery. According to Johnson, Donovan said he still envisions LaVine being part of a winning equation in Chicago. Both Donovan and White spoke highly of LaVine on Friday.

We’re not really focused on that (speculation about LaVine’s future),” White said. “I know what type of dude he is. I know what type of player he is and how much he cares about winning and how much he cares about the team. Everybody in this locker room knows who he is as a person. He’s been there since he had surgery, giving us motivation. I can’t thank him enough for that.

We have more from the Bulls:

  • Apart from DeRozan, Patrick Williams (restricted) and Andre Drummond are key free agents that will help dictate Chicago’s offseason direction, ESPN’s Bobby Marks writes. Lonzo Ball‘s recovery from knee injuries that have kept him out the past two-plus years will also play into the offseason plans. As Marks observes, if Ball’s injury is deemed career ending, Chicago would be allowed to remove his $21.9MM salary (player option) from the books. As for the duo of DeRozan and LaVine, the Bulls have until June 30 to extend DeRozan for up to three years and up to $129MM. Finding a taker for LaVine’s $43MM salary could be difficult, but the Bulls could benefit if a team with cap space strikes out in free agency. Alex Caruso, eligible to sign for up to four years and $78.8MM, is an extension candidate to watch.
  • With White, LaVine, Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Dalen Terry all under contract for next season, Chicago’s guard rotation looks full. Still, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Donovan still sees plenty of room for Ball in the rotation. While there’s still uncertainty with Ball’s ability to return, as Marks mentioned, the Bulls have maintained optimism in his comeback. Donovan said if the guard rotation remains the same, he likes his players’ abilities to complement each other’s games. “When I was in Oklahoma [City], we had Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder, and I played those guys a lot together because of the IQ and the unselfishness, the way they were willing to play,” Donovan said. “… I feel really good with [White, Dosunmu and Ball] out there because of their makeup and their mindset as players.
  • While the Bulls deserve credit for overcoming a 5-14 start to the season, they’re ultimately stuck in a cycle of mediocrity and the franchise has just one playoff appearance since 2016/17, Johnson writes. In order to break the cycle, Johnson opines, the Bulls need to get creative in free agency like they did when they brought in DeRozan, Ball and Caruso in 2021.
  • Despite an uninspiring season, the Bulls continue to express interest in retaining all of their free agents, which would have the organization set up to pay the luxury tax for just the second time since ’02/03. ESPN’s Jamal Collier explores how Chicago got to this point.

Central Notes: Green, Bulls, Ball, Mitchell, Bucks, Flynn

In his first game after signing a rest-of-season contract that made him eligible for the postseason, Bulls swingman Javonte Green had the best performance of his career in Friday’s victory against the Knicks, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

The 30-year-old finished with careers highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 10-of-14 from the floor while contributing a pair of steals and a block in 33 minutes.

He’s one of those guys you want to have on your team,” DeMar DeRozan said of Green. “For him to bounce back in a tough year for him just trying to get back healthy and for him to be doing what he’s been doing since he came back is amazing. We all know what to expect from Woo. Every time he goes out there, he plays like he’s 6-9 and he does anything and whatever for the team. … He’s one of a kind. I’m glad to have him back.”

While Green provided a much-needed boost and a feel-good story, the win was marred due to ankle injuries to Coby White and Alex Caruso, who both left the game and were unable to return, Johnson adds. The two starters were able to walk on their own after the game and seemed to be in “good spirits,” though head coach Billy Donovan said the team would have to await further testing to learn the extent of the injuries.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Appearing on 670 The Score (YouTube link), LaVar Ball — the father of injured Bulls guard Lonzo Ball — projected his son could start playing 5-on-5 with full contact in August or September, as Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “I’m thinking at least four or five months. Four or five months where he can really get dialed and do what he do,” LaVar said. That projection aligns with what Donovan said about Lonzo’s recovery last month, Taylor notes. Ball, who hasn’t played since January 2022, has undergone three knee surgeries over the past two-plus years, but the team is cautiously optimistic he could return next season.
  • If the Cavaliers fail to make a deep playoff run and Donovan Mitchell declines a contract extension, would they entertain the possibility of trading him this summer? Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores that topic, listing five potential landing spots for the All-Star guard if Cleveland goes that route.
  • The Bucks were expected to be a title contender, and they’re still (barely) clinging to the No. 2 seed in the East. However, they’ve been playing their worst basketball of the season at the absolute worst time, dropping five of their past six games, including three straight to Washington, Memphis and Toronto — three teams at the bottom of the standings — with only five regular season games remaining, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. After Friday’s loss to the Raptors, who had dropped 15 straight games, Bucks players said they’re not panicking, but they’re frustrated, as is their head coach. “The last three were against three bad teams. To me, that’s inexcusable. For all of us,” said Doc Rivers, who is now just 15-16 with Milwaukee since taking over mid-season. “As I told them, this is on me. I gotta figure out what we gotta do to play at a higher pace.”
  • Pistons guard Malachi Flynn has averaged 5.4 points on .386/.337/.749 shooting in 208 career regular season games (14.2 MPG). He had one of the most unexpected 50-point games in NBA history on Wednesday, shooting 18-of-25 from the floor while being plus-14 in 34 minutes in an eight-point loss to Atlanta. In Friday’s loss to Memphis, the former 29th overall pick fell back to Earth, notes John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link), going 0-of-12 from the field and scoring three points (all at the free throw line) while being minus-13 in 23 minutes. If Detroit issues him a qualifying offer, Flynn will be a restricted free agent this summer; otherwise, he’ll be unrestricted.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, White, Ball, Karnisovas

The Bulls had to finish Thursday’s loss in Houston without their leading scorer after DeMar DeRozan was ejected along with Dillon Brooks for an incident midway through the third quarter (video link), writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. After DeRozan was whistled for a Flagrant 2 for a hard foul on Jalen Green, Brooks confronted him.

DeRozan blamed Brooks for escalating the conflict, saying “it’s an issue walking up on any man from behind.” He also claimed that he was off balance and didn’t intend to foul Green as hard as he did.

“I was surprised just from the simple fact that I was trying to hedge out and just be aggressive, obviously bumped him, but if you look at it, I kind of tripped into it,” DeRozan said. “I’m not dumb. These days it’s just so hard to tell when you go back and look at a review. It wasn’t anything I was trying to do intentionally.”

KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes that DeRozan thought a foul should have been called when Green blocked his shot on the previous trip down court. Coach Billy Donovan told reporters that his players have to do a better job of not being affected by missed calls.

“We have to control ourselves and adjust to the officials,” Donovan said. “The crew that was on the game is a good crew. They’re good guys. They work extremely hard.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Coby White came off the bench Thursday after missing the previous three games with a right hip injury, Cowley adds in a separate story. White has continued to serve as a vocal leader even when he hasn’t been able to play. “Because he has been on the bench, that’s helped in timeouts,” Donovan said. “He’s still stayed pretty active and pretty vocal, but I think he’s at a point and time in his career where he’s not afraid to speak up. It’s always about the team. It’s not about criticizing guys on what they should be doing. It’s more a good, positive vibe, but he’s even tried to do that while he’s been out these three games. But on the court that’s where you miss some of that, where he can talk some.”
  • Lonzo Ball, who hasn’t played since January 2022, posted a video of himself dunking twice in a row this week, tweets Julia Poe of The Chicago Tribune. The Bulls are optimistic that Ball can be ready for the start of next season if his injured left knee continues to improve, Poe adds in a full story.
  • There will be a market for DeRozan if the Bulls let him reach free agency, Johnson states in a mailbag column. DeRozan is eligible for a three-year extension worth $130MM through June 30, but Johnson suggests he might be willing to take roughly $70-74MM for two seasons, possibly with a team option for a third year.
  • There’s no reason to expect president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas or the rest of the front office to be replaced this summer, Johnson adds. He hears that management has given Karnisovas the freedom to proceed however he sees fit, even if that means a full rebuild, and says an active summer is likely upcoming.

Injury Notes: Lonzo, LaVine, Scoot, Ayton, Middleton, Maxey

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan shared some good news on Lonzo Ball on Saturday, telling reporters – including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago – that the veteran point guard has begun more advanced rehab activities, including sprinting, cutting, and jumping. It’s a positive development, given that Donovan said last month that Ball hadn’t yet been cleared to sprint.

“Some of the workouts have been really, really positive and he has progressed,” Donovan said today. “He has responded well. Some of the things that medical guys have shown me is he looks good moving. I’m just really happy for him personally for his progress. He has worked hard to put himself in this position. And hopefully, he can continue to progress.”

Ball, who last suited up for an NBA game in January 2022, has undergone three surgeries on his left knee since then, including a cartilage transplant approximately a year ago. The next step in his recovery would be getting cleared for contact, but there’s no set timeline for him advancing to that stage, according to Donovan.

The Bulls’ head coach also provided an update on Zach LaVine, who underwent surgery on a “non-union Jones fracture” in his right foot last month. As Johnson relays, LaVine is ahead of schedule in his rehab process and is aiming to be back to full strength in three months rather than the four-to-six months initially projected. Either way, we shouldn’t expect to see the guard back in action until the fall.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • A pair of injured Trail Blazers appear on track to return to action on Saturday, according to Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter links). Scoot Henderson, out since the All-Star break due to a left adductor strain, and Deandre Ayton, who has missed the past five games due to a sprained right hand, have both been listed as probable to play vs. Toronto.
  • Bucks head coach Doc Rivers said on Friday night that Khris Middleton (left ankle sprain) could play on Sunday for the first time since February 6, tweets Mark Medina of Sportskeeda. As Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observes, Middleton has been sidelined long enough that he’ll fall short of playing in 62 games, which means he’ll miss out on earning a $1.5MM bonus in his contract.
  • Sixers head coach Nick Nurse described Tyrese Maxey‘s concussion symptoms earlier this week as “very mild,” per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and told reporters on Friday that he was optimistic about the guard’s chances to play on Sunday in New York (Twitter link via Mizell). However, Philadelphia has officially listed Maxey as out for that game. Unless that designation changes by Sunday night, it will be the fourth consecutive game he has missed.

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball Still Unable To Sprint

There is increasing concern about the progress of Lonzo Ball‘s rehab, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Ball was supposed to begin sprinting in January, but that still hasn’t happened, per Cowley. The Bulls point guard hasn’t played since January 2022. He has undergone three surgeries on his left knee since then, including a cartilage transplant last March.

“I don’t know if he’s stuck,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He is doing some shooting, some running, some jumping. He hasn’t done any sprinting yet, that I know.”

Donovan stopped short of calling it a setback.

“They talked about that, and (sprinting) was kind of a goal, a setpoint,” he said. “I do think the one thing that has been a priority right now so he does not get set back is he needs to develop more strength in his leg. Because of him having that surgery and being off his leg so long, before he’s really able to ramp up I think they want him to get to a place physically that relates to his quad strength, hamstring strength, before he starts to really do that. I don’t want to say it’s a holdup, but that’s where they want to get him to. In terms of what he’s doing, he feels better.”

Most of Ball’s rehab work this season has been done in Los Angeles, though he has spent some time in Chicago. The veteran guard expressed optimism last summer that his latest procedure would eventually get him back in action.

Ball holds a player option of approximately $21.4MM on the final year of his contract. It’s a virtual certainty he’ll opt it, given how long he’s been sidelined. It’s too soon to know how his body will respond once he progresses to sprinting and basketball-related drills, but there’s certainly no guarantee he’ll return to action next season.

Chicago has lost Ball’s former backcourt partner Zach LaVine to a season-ending foot injury this season. Power forward Patrick Williams has also been lost for the season with his own foot issues.