Bulls Insider

Bulls officially shut Ball down for 2022-23 season

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

With three sentences, the Chicago Bulls made official what has been expected for weeks and as a mere formality after each neutral, non-update from the team.

Lonzo Ball won’t play basketball this season.

“Despite making significant increases in strength and function over the past several months, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball continues to experience performance limiting discomfort during participation in high level basketball-related activities,” executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas said in his statement. “Considering the required time period to achieve the necessary level of fitness to return-to-play and the current stage of the NBA season, Ball will not return this season. The focus for Ball will continue to be on the resolution of his discomfort and a full return for the 2023-24 season.” 

Training camp for that season begins in September. That will mark over 20 months since Ball last took an NBA court.

That’s why Ball found himself on the Bulls’ recent trip to Paris fielding a question on whether he’s worried this mysterious left knee injury is career threatening.

“I’m not too worried about (that),” Ball said on Jan. 16. “I just think it’s time consuming. This is my third surgery. I had two last year. It’s about building that strength back up and the confidence in myself. I’m only 25. So I don’t have any concern.”

Nevertheless, until Ball takes the court and can contribute at the high level that propelled the Bulls to an Eastern Conference-leading record in his mere 35 games played since his high-profile acquisition, it’s a valid concern.


Ball logged 24 minutes in the Bulls’ blowout home loss to the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 14, 2022. The Bulls led the Eastern Conference with a 27-13 record following that loss.

Ball didn’t play the next night in Boston, heading for surgery later that month to repair a meniscus tear. The Bulls said he would return to play in six to eight weeks.

He didn’t.

Ball then soberly addressed his lingering issues in September on the eve of a debridement procedure aimed at cleaning out debris from the troublesome knee. It marked Ball’s second surgery in 2022 and third of his career.

“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, like, no force and I can't, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can't play,” Ball said. “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.”

To this day, sources have said multiple doctors are unsure what's the issue for Ball, who said in Paris that he's working to learn how to run with a "different gait."

Let’s pause here for perspective. Injuries stink. It may sound pedestrian or cliché, but for a franchise and fan base still scarred by the Derrick Rose saga, it’s true.

Ball plays basketball with a selfless, joyful style that makes his teammates better. Watching that for 35 games, watching this management regime’s vision take flight, and then to have it stripped away is cruel.

It’s most painful for Ball, who offered a small glimpse of that dynamic while in Paris, even as he tried to stay positive.

“I can’t focus on the negative right now,” he said. “I mean it’s the longest I’ve ever been out. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, so for me it’s a lot, especially just watching the guys every night and watching them go on planes and come back and stuff. And I’m always just watching practice, I feel like. I’ve just got to stay positive and do what I can to get on the court.’’

As previously reported, the Bulls have some insurance on the four-year, $80 million contract that Ball signed when the Bulls acquired him from the New Orleans Pelicans in a sign-and-trade transaction over the 2021 offseason. But the Bulls have struggled to replace what Ball brings on the court.

From his dead-eye 3-point shooting to his push-ahead passes to his point-of-attack defense, Ball is an All-Star role player. He impacts winning.

Let’s hope he gets the chance to do so again.

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