NBA Media Day usually brings some optimism, no matter what situation the team finds itself in. Even as Lonzo Ball prepares to undergo another knee surgery, Monday’s celebrations at Chicago Bulls Media Day still have plenty of positive vibes as the Bulls prepare to take on. Eastern Conference Competitive Challenge.
Paul then spoke to the media on Tuesday.
Ball’s Zoom call with reporters painted a bleak picture, as the bouncer admitted he still couldn’t run or jump after a summer filled with rehab consultations and a doctor. He initially had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in January, with a nagging bruise in the bone complicating matters and keeping him out for the rest of last season and beyond.
“I really can’t run,” Ball said, via Cody Westerlund’s 670 score. “Can’t run or jump. There’s a 30 to 60 degree range when my knee is bent so I don’t have the strength like it and I can’t hold myself. Unless I can do these things, I can’t play. I did rehab. She was getting better, But it didn’t get to the point where I could get out of there and actually go there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”
Paul even admitted that he still deals with pain in everyday life, including when climbing stairs. He said the doctors were “surprised” by what’s going on with him, because they apparently couldn’t figure out what was going on.
After all options were exhausted, the decision was made that Ball undergo debridement surgery, which will take place on Wednesday. While the knee appears to be structurally sound based on the MRI, it is clear that there is still something wrong and surgery will be done to see what happens there.
The fact that this injury has confused all of these doctors and is affecting normal activities is troubling. The mind immediately turns to long-term issues that completely change not only his career, but his life after basketball. Hope is not that serious and this surgery will actually find out the source of the problem and treat it.
Paul is still confident he will return sometime in the 2022-23 season, but it is impossible to know when he will be back. While he is due for evaluation four to six weeks after Wednesday’s surgery, it will likely take much longer than that before he is ready to play again. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan admitted the team should act as if there is a legitimate possibility that ball isn’t playing this season:
All of this is a huge problem for a player who meant a lot to the Bulls last season. He played a major role in Chicago running out to one of the best records in the NBA, and his absence became especially glaring to end the campaign. His passing, his 3-point shot and his defense are the pillars of this list.
With no ball in some or all of 2022-23, the roof of the Bulls is taking a hit. The question was whether they could stay standing at an Eastern Conference that would once again be much better than it was before. One of the Media Day themes was to acknowledge how difficult the East has been this season, even though they are embracing the challenge.
“I love the competitive island on which the East is,” said All-Star Demar DeRozan, in bulls. “It is what brings the best in you, when you have the best around you. Put me in a room with the best that will bring out the best in me.”
DraftKings currently has the Bulls at 42.5 wins, which is ninth in the East. That means Chicago will need to win only two games to get the No. 8 seed. Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, said the expectations are to improve last season and at least win a playoff. Obviously, it would be difficult to do that from ninth place.
There are tracks for the bull to weather the storm of Lonzo Ball and be better than expected. They still have two All-Star guards in DeRozan and Zach Lavigne in good health now. Nikola Vucevic was an All-Star star not too long ago. Alex Caruso is one of the best ocean defenders in the NBA. Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmo can make decisive leaps. Coby White might even surprise two seasoned offseason signings Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic, legitimately boosting the depth.
Much has to go well, and East being difficult won’t make things any easier. Not all hope is lost for this Bulls team, but it’s hard not to be pessimistic after Ball’s latest update.