The Chicago Bulls are optimistic about Lonzo Ball’s latest knee surgery, but expectations are still tempered as the point guard continues a nine-month rehab.
The ball was subjected to an arthroscopic debridement of the left knee Wednesday in Los Angeles for evaluation and treatment of a previously undetermined source of lingering pain after injuring his meniscus in January.
Coach Billy Donovan spoke with the Bulls’ medical staff Thursday morning, who said the surgery “went well” but that Ball’s road to recovery is expected to take several months. Meanwhile, the Bulls are forced to prepare for the season without their playmaker.
“I hope the discomfort and pain is gone now with this (procedure),” Donovan said. “I’ll be inspired when I start seeing it, but I don’t know when that process will start with him. I have to prepare (without him) because I don’t know when his return date will be.”
The previous source of Ball’s pain – which plagued him daily, including when he tried to climb the stairs at home – was not visible on the MRI. Despite “successful” surgery to repair the meniscus injury in January, Ball’s mobility remains severely limited whenever he bends his knee between 30 and 60 degrees.
Ball hasn’t been running at full speed or playing basketball since the injury nine months ago.
“It’s something I’ve never faced,” Ball said during a press conference Tuesday. “Even the doctors are a little surprised by this. We are all working together to solve this case.”
The Bulls are awaiting further evaluation from Ball’s procedure before the guard is cleared to return to Chicago for the next phase of his recovery. The team previously announced a 4- to 6-week rehab window following the procedure, but neither phase of Ball’s recovery has matched the predicted timeline.
Ball’s extended absence also deepens the team’s uncertainty that he can return to the starting lineup. After nine months without being able to shoot a basketball, it’s unclear how quickly the point guard will be able to return to form.
“He’s a good team guy and he clearly makes our team better,” Donovan said. “But let’s say the operation is a complete success and everything is great and he’s not in pain… You’ve still got a player out for nine months. It’s not like three weeks later, if the surgery is successful, you can just throw him back out and play.”
Lonzo Ball’s knee injury timeline
January 14: Ball suffered a torn meniscus in a game against the Golden State Warriors.
January 20: Bykov to announce that Ball will undergo surgery and expect six to eight weeks of recovery before he can return to the court.
February 21: Ball has been posting videos on Instagram of him dancing and playing with his daughter, falsely indicating his increased mobility as he nears the end of his recovery period.
March 19: Coach Billy Donovan says Ball’s recovery is at a standstillwhich was complicated by a bone impact sustained before the meniscus tear.
March 20: Donovan says The ball will stop trying to run at full speed for 10 days in an attempt to reduce the swelling of the knee.
April 5: Ball continues to experience discomfort after the 10-day layoffbut Donovan says the team won’t shut him down.
April 6: Bykov close Ball for the season. Donovan says the Bulls’ medical staff did not suggest a second surgery.
July 12: Executive Vice President of Basketball Arturos Cornishovas says Ball’s recovery ‘not as fast as we’d like’ but adds the Bulls hope he’ll be available for training camp.
September 28: Ball is undergoing arthroscopic cleaning in Los Angeles, causing him to miss training camp and the first few weeks of the season. The Bulls have set a recovery window from the procedure at six to eight weeks, but Donovan cautions that his recovery could take longer after being sidelined for 10 months.