Lonzo Ball‘s status was a distraction for the Bulls for much of last season, Nikola Vucevic admits in an interview with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. After being acquired during the 2021 offseason, Ball led Chicago to the top of the Eastern Conference in his first two months with the team, but he hasn’t played since because of a knee injury that has required three surgeries. Vucevic said the organization was counting on Ball’s return early last season, but complications kept pushing that back.
“It was kind of like, ‘Oh, when he comes back, it’s going to be fixed.’ Early on, it was, ‘Oh, six weeks,’ then, ‘Now it’s eight weeks,’ and then, ‘January’ and ‘Maybe playoffs.’ For us, it was tricky, because we kept waiting for him,” Vucevic recalled. “And now, at least we know he’s not there. We’ve got some new teammates, some good signings that will help us. And so now it’s on us as players to figure it out and find a way to have a better year.”
Ball and team officials have already stated that he won’t be available for the upcoming season after undergoing cartilage transplant surgery in March. Vucevic said he empathizes with his teammate as he tries to work his way back from the injury and handles the negative reaction from the public and the media.
“You feel for the guy. He’s such a good player. And to have to deal with all that, it’s very difficult,” Vucevic said. “I mean, he’s been very positive about it. He keeps trying to find ways to get back on the floor. There’s a lot of stuff people can’t see. You can’t see him do rehab. You can’t see all the stuff that he does to get back on the court.”
There’s more on the Bulls:
- Vucevic is excited about Chicago’s roster additions, believing Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter will bring much-needed toughness on defense, Fischer adds. “Just guys that like to do the dirty work that doesn’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet, but is very important to the team,” Vucevic said. “We need those things badly.”
- Carter is the latest Chicago-area native to play for the Bulls, joining a list that includes Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Beverley, observes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Carter was a popular player at Bulls Fest, as fans were eager to interact with a player who grew up in the city. “When we can go out and get kids who can check a lot of boxes on the court, it’s definitely a bonus when they’re from Chicago,” general manager Marc Eversley said. “There’s just a certain pride that I think those kids wear on their chest. Anytime you can have a Chicago kid playing for the Chicago Bulls, (it) is a really, really special thing.”
- Bucks writer Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel appeared on the latest edition of Bulls Talk to discuss Carter’s role with the team and the challenge that former Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin faces as the new head coach in Milwaukee.