Perhaps Chicago Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas striving for continuity was what this team needed after all. They are 3-2 and coming off of back-to-back wins including one over last year’s Eastern Conference champs, the Boston Celtics.
But they are far from whole as they navigate two-time All-Star Zach LaVine’s recovery from offseason knee surgery with intermittent rest.
The Bulls are also still going to be without starting point guard Lonzo Ball.
Ball underwent an arthroscopic debridement to clean up loose cartilage that was leading to pain and his father, LaVar, recently said that it had caused nerve damage. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan spoke with reporters and gave his perspective on the guard’s recovery which is likely going to span a year or more.
As Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times points out, Donovan has spoken about Ball “on a daily basis”. The guard has been visible on the bench during home games as he continues his rehab.
But Donovan has not been able to give much detail beyond Ball’s state of mind amid this lengthy ordeal.
“I have not heard anything as of yet with that,’’ Donovan said. “He’s doing good. He feels like he’s progressing. He’s pretty optimistic and positive about everything. I think the biggest thing with the surgery is the incision healing in order to continue to make progress, and I just don’t know how far along he is in that process.’’
"Sources tell me the team is bracing for him to be out at least into the new year."
NBA Insider @ShamsCharania reports on Lonzo Ball's knee injury and potential timeline for a return. pic.twitter.com/lTchSB1Lf1
— The Rally (@TheRally) September 29, 2022
That is in line with what LaVar Ball said during an appearance on the “Ball Facts” podcast.
Lonzo just reached the front end of a four-to-six-week timeline given for his re-evaluation; the next steps toward creating a plan to return to the court.
“They finally got in there and they did his stuff right” the elder Ball said. “He had something that was – some of the debris was caught up with a nerve or something like that in his leg. It wouldn’t allow him to bend it or whatever. He was giving much pain but he got all that situated now…I just came back from seeing my boy to make sure he’s good, stitches is out.”
We are still a long way off from a full-blown controversy. But Ball is equally far from a return giving second-year point guard Ayo Dosunmu plenty of time to further ingratiate himself with his coaches and teammates.
Dosunmu is averaging more points and rebounds than his starting numbers from last season and has improved his offensive and defensive ratings by at least six points per 100 possessions.
Ayo Dosunmu was getting buckets from all three levels against the Celtics. His shot looks quicker and more confident on spot-ups from three. He burned Jayson Tatum to the rim a couple times. He even broke out the midrange game to beat drop coverage like he was back at Illinois. pic.twitter.com/0zAZjsxcBi
— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) October 25, 2022
Through it all, he cited Ball for helping him navigate the new role.
“He told me about…the pace of the game, and understanding where and knowing the personnel of my teammates,” Dosunmu said. “Just knowing where they like to get the ball at. Just being a student of the game. Managing the game.”
So, maybe there is time and enough there with Dosunmu to put the Bulls’ mind at ease about rushing Ball back – something he has said he will not do.
But a full-blown controversy seems very unlikely for this team.
Beyond just the politics of the NBA which would typically dictate that Ball get his starting job back just for returning, this team boasts tremendous chemistry as evidenced by LaVine coming to Ball’s defense amid all of the chatter about his injury.
“It’s tough, man, because he worked so hard,” LaVine said of Ball. “He’s in a good place right now. He’s getting better. And, I know guys have been talking about it all summer but let’s understand, he wants to be out here more than anybody else. And, you know, nobody wants to be injured. And it’s tough…having people talk about it each and every day – when you’re going to be back, when not.”
That is why it is good – and important – to hear from Donovan that Ball has remained in high spirits despite his predicament.
As for the Bulls, surely they will just keep chugging along until Ball is able to rejoin them.