The Chicago Bulls announced on Tuesday that guard Lonzo Ball will not return this season. Ball, the NBA's No. 2 overall draft pick in 2017, has not played since tearing the meniscus in his left knee in January 2022.
Ball has made "small improvements" in his recovery from two arthroscopic surgeries, according to Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas, who added in early February that the Bulls planned to officially update Ball's health status after the All-Star break. The news comes as no surprise. As NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson indicated on Friday, it was a "foregone conclusion" that the injury would keep Ball out all season.
On the "Bulls Talk Pod," Johnson said that Ball is still unable to run or cut.
Ball hasn't appeared in a game since he tore the meniscus in his knee against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 14, 2022. He was originally expected to miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing his first arthroscopic surgery.
The Bulls finished 19-23 in the regular season without Ball last season and limped into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, losing in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks in five games.
There was optimism the 25-year-old would be able to return for the start of the 2022-23 season, until it became clear that his knee was still a major concern. Ball required a second surgery in September, when he shared that he was unable run or jump on his knee at the time and still had pain walking up stairs. Ball added that doctors were "a bit surprised" that he was still struggling so much due to the initial injury.
Fans were given a dose of excitement last month, when Ball posted videos of himself dunking and running. It's unclear how recent those videos were, but the running video did appear to show Ball had a slight limp.
The UCLA standout signed a four-year, $80 million contract as part of a trade to the Bulls from the New Orlean Pelicans in August 2021. He averaged 13 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game in 35 starts last season.
Thirteen months after Ball's initial injury, it is clear how helpful he would be to the Bulls if healthy — something fans now must hope occurs by next season. With the team's offense ranking 20th in points per game, the Bulls hold the 11th spot the Eastern Conference with a 26-33 record.