When Lonzo Ball went down with a left knee injury in January, team doctors were optimistic that the starting point guard would miss only six to eight weeks before returning to the lineup. Flash forward nine months later and Ball hasn’t played in a single game since his initial injury, and he’s scheduled for a second surgery next week.
The Bulls expect Ball to miss the start of the regular season at the end of October.
Ball missed the entire second half of last season, including the playoffs. Numerous setbacks delayed his recovery, and now he’s undergoing the knife a second time to clean up his left knee. The Bulls suggested Ball will miss training camp, and he’s a long shot to be ready for the season opener on October 19 in Miami. There’s a good chance Ball misses the season’s first quarter and doesn’t suit up until Thanksgiving.
The Bulls are +5000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, according to a recent update by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. The Bulls were projected to win 43.5 games this season, which would barely place them over .500.
The Eastern Conference is stacked this season. Based on preseason projections, experts think the Bulls will be fighting for a spot in the Play-In Tournament. That’s instead of jockeying for the #1 seed with the likes of the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Da Bulls Skid Without Ball
The Bulls were one of the surprise teams in the NBA during the first half of the 2021-22 season. That was thanks to the powerful duo of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, and an offense that was anchored by Ball. In early January, the Bulls jumped out to a 26-10 record and were the top team in the Eastern Conference. They also survived a nasty COVID-19 outbreak in the locker room during the holidays, which postponed three games.
The Bulls’ season went off the rails when Ball went down with a knee injury. He was diagnosed with a meniscus tear in his left knee and thought he could play through the pain. After missing a couple of games, Ball and the Bulls opted for surgery.
Ball last played on Jan. 14 during a blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls were 27-13 before Ball suffered his injury, but they went 19-23 the rest of the season without him in the starting lineup. They slipped to the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and were knocked out in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bulls won just one playoff game, and the Bucks clinched the series, 4-1.
It’s been a disappointing turn of events for Ball since he joined the Bulls before the 2021-21 season. The former #2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft spent two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers before they traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans in the summer of 2019. Ball was part of the blockbuster trade that brought Anthony Davis to the Lakers. He played two seasons with the Pelicans before he headed to the Bulls in a sign-and-trade last summer.
Next Man Up: Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu
Ball averaged 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists in 35 games with the Bulls last season before his knee injury. He shot a career-best 42.3% from 3-point range.
When Ball went down, Coby White and rookie Ayo Dosunmu split time at the point guard position. White averaged 12.7 points and 2.9 assists per game last season, essentially serving as the Bulls’ sixth man. Dosunmu started 40 games and averaged 8.8 points and 3.3 assists.
The Bulls signed veteran point guard Goran Dragic in the off-season. They added him to provide some stability off the bench and leadership in the locker room. Fans will have to wait until the preseason to see which lineup head coach Billy Donovan uses without Ball on the floor. Dragic could take over as the starting point guard, with White resuming his role leading the second unit.
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