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Lonzo Ball return still a ways off as knee “has not responded” to rehab


Bulls guard Lonzo Ball smiles after making a three-point-shot during the second half against the Pistons at the United Center on Jan. 11, 2022. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)


Half of the duo that was at the heart of a surprisingly solid Chicago Bulls defense is back on the court in the form of Alex Caruso.

However, point guard Lonzo Ball still has a ways to go for his return. He has been out seven weeks following a knee surgery that was supposed to sideline him for 6-8 weeks, but his knee has not responded to the latest steps in rehab, coach Billy Donovan said recently. Here is Donovan’s full quote, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“He has not responded,” Donovan said. “There’s no setbacks. It’s still the same thing.

“He has not been able to do anything full speed. And anytime we get him close to that, there’s discomfort. So I think they’re going to probably at least look at, you know, ‘Do you back off and let him rest for a little bit and see if that helps?’”

The obvious looming question is will Ball return for the playoffs in less than a month, or will he be shut down for the season? The Bulls have not discussed shutting him down. At least not yet.
“I think everybody was optimistic that he could get back and play. But there’s no question with the current situation with him not being able to do things physically that he needs to do on the court---he’s not even at that place---if it keeps going on and on, that would not be great. But he’s made some strides. He just hasn’t made significant enough strides where we can keep pushing him.”

Ball had surgery on the same knee back in 2018. His knee not responding well in rehab is a cause for concern.

Ball’s transition playmaking, catch-and-shoot skill from 3, and his defense made him a great fit at the point next to DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. Chicago has found a core that works, but it needs them all to be healthy to make a playoff run. At 41-29, Chicago sits as the No. 5 seed in the East but is just half a game up on the No. 6 Cavaliers and are just two games ahead of No. 7 Toronto (and falling into the play-in).

The Bulls need some wins down the stretch, but Ball might not be back to contribute to them.