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Lonzo Ball says he hopes to play this season but no timetable for a return

Indiana Pacers v Chicago Bulls

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 26: Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls looks on against the Indiana Pacers during the first half at United Center on October 26, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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The fact that Lonzo Ball spoke to reporters for the first time since media day at the Bulls’ first practice since arriving in Paris for the NBA’s Paris Game — Thursday against the Detroit Pistons — says more than any words he would speak. Only a handful of team media would be on hand, meaning fewer reporters, a shorter scrum and fewer headlines.

What Ball said about his recovery from a second knee surgery — he has not played a game for the Bulls in over a calendar year — was not new: He hopes to return to play this season but there is no timetable for his return. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago was one of those reporters in Paris.

“I mean, naturally, yeah, everything is on a time schedule,” Ball said, when asked about the possibility of running out of time [to play this season]. “But I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up. I would love to play. I would never count that out. It’s a long year, I feel like we’re hitting our stride right now. So hopefully I can keep getting better, the team will keep getting better and we can meet up.”

Ball also acknowledged that he has not been cleared for running full speed daily or cutting, so there is still a lot of ramping up to do. However, there had been optimism in the wake of Ball posting videos of him running on Instagram.

Ball was asked about those videos.

“Just that the process was starting. To be able to do something, getting back on the floor a little bit, starting to run on the treadmill,” he said. “Obviously, there’s still some discomfort and some hitching in there. But it’s the process of getting everything started.

“That was my first time running in pretty much a year. So just for me it was positive just to get on a treadmill and do something. It’s not my normal gait. Obviously, I’ve got to work through that. There’s going to be pain there because of the surgeries and I’m getting back in and moving things. But I’m just trying to stay positive and move forward.”

Ball had his first knee surgery in January 2022 and the hope — even expectation — was he would return for the playoffs. However, when Ball’s knee didn’t respond well during rehab things were slowed down, and when it still wasn’t improving he had a second knee surgery before the season. That recovery is going slowly as well.

Chicago has played better of late, but it’s still easy to see where they miss Ball on defense (where he was most valuable), in transition, and as a floor general. The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game.

Hopefully, we see him this year, but at what point do the Bulls just shelve that idea?