Ball to resume running after 10-day rehab pause


After a 10-day pull-back of his knee surgery rehabilitation, Lonzo Ball will resume ramping up toward full-speed sprinting and cutting, Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told reporters ahead of Thursday's home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Ball underwent surgery to address a meniscus tear and bone bruise in his left knee on Jan. 28, from which he was initially expected to return in six-to-eight weeks. The reason for the delay — Donovan spoke one day short of nine weeks since the procedure — is that each time the team's medical staff has attempted to ramp up his movement to game speed, Ball has experienced discomfort in the knee.

So, on March 21, Donovan told reporters the Bulls were pulling back Ball's rehab for 10 days, pausing his running, and at the end of that window would attempt to ramp him up again and monitor his physical response.

That process, which Donovan stressed will be gradual, begins now.

"Obviously with the amount of time that he had off to kind of let things calm down, it's not gonna go 0 to 60 (miles per hour)," Donovan said. "That will take a little bit of time to see how he responds once we get to a place where we try to get back to him some of that sprinting and cutting."

While the Bulls remain in wait-and-see mode until they see how Ball responds to the ramp-up process, the reality is that time is running out for him to make a successful return. Ten days — and six games — remain in the regular season. Then, the playoffs.

Donovan insists there has not yet been conversation of shutting Ball down for the remainder of the season, but it's a short timeframe for a player who still needs to overcome knee discomfort (when running at full speed), be cleared for contact and ramp up his conditioning to handle the minutes load and intensity level of an NBA game.

"Certainly every day that goes by and time that passes by, you know, you're moving closer and closer to the end of the season," Donovan said. "But I have not gotten anything from the doctors that said to me, like, 'Listen, there's just not enough time, we can't get him back.' They're gonna do everything they can to try to get him back. But a lot's gonna be depending on how he responds to this."

Donovan was clear that Ball has a strong desire to return. And obviously the Bulls miss his contributions at both ends of the court. In his 35 appearances this season, Ball has averaged 13 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals and shot 42.3 percent from 3-point range.

But the organization, Donovan added, will consider his long-term health over all.

"First and foremost is just his health and safety. I don't think any of the doctors are gonna put him out there or allow him to be out there if he's still feeling and experiencing pain," Donovan said. "With the time that he's missed, we'd have to see some significant progress that he's made physically that we feel good that he can go in there and play and contribute and help.

"I think they're gonna find something out relatively soon. If he responds really, really well and everything starts to go really really well and he can start sprinting and doing those things and he can start getting on the court and having contact, I think the medical guys will give me an idea of, like, 'Listen, this is how much time he's gonna need right now to physically get himself ready to play.'"

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