Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
In some ways, everything looked normal as Lonzo Ball sat in full uniform on a dais at Chicago Bulls media day at the Advocate Center, answering questions about his and the team’s future prospects.
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But of course, nothing is normal about Ball’s career path, which has veered off course because of a troublesome left knee that has required three surgeries since arriving in Chicago.
When Ball played his first half-season following his sign-and-trade acquisition from the New Orleans Pelicans, the Bulls led the Eastern Conference and Ball’s four-year, $80 million deal helped bring management’s vision to life.
Since January 2022, though, Ball has yet to appear in an NBA game. And management already has ruled him out for his second straight season in 2023-24.
“I'm feeling pretty good, probably about halfway through the rehab process,” Ball said. “Still got a long ways ahead of me but each week I've been progressing and I'm just trying to stay positive and take it day-by-day.”
Ball’s last surgical procedure in March 2023 was his most daunting. Ball underwent a cartilage transplant, a procedure that leaves his playing future in doubt.
But Ball remains steadfast in his confidence to return to the NBA.
“I definitely plan on playing again,” Ball said. “After surgery three, I feel like it’s going well so far, no setbacks. So for me it's just keep my head up, just keep doing the work.
“Rehab has been long. It feels like every day is almost the same. But I'm getting better each week and that's all I can ask for. It feels good to be around the guys. You can feel a new energy in the building, at least coming from my point of view.
“The surgery was a really big surgery. We were all together and came together with a plan moving forward. It's not really a set timeline. But I pretty much have this whole year to get as healthy as possible and be ready to go next season.”
Ball said he would split time this season between Chicago and Los Angeles, where his rehabilitation team and routine are established. When he’s with the Bulls, he vowed to talk to teammates and offer advice to help any way he can.
“Everything happens for a reason. I couldn't control getting hurt or not getting hurt or anything like that. It's just something that happened to me, part of my career,” he said. “I try to stay positive. I don't look at the negatives. I try to think about what I can do to get better and that's how I wake up every day and live.
“I have a lot of family and friends that have helped me along the way, especially this team right here. For me, I have a lot of people in my corner, so it's not just me fighting this fight. It's everybody around me as well. I appreciate them every day.”
Ball’s teammates appreciate him, not only for how he played on the court throughout the first half of 2021-22 but for remaining committed to trying to return.
“You’re not going to replace somebody like Lonzo Ball,” Zach LaVine said. “We talked about that for the last couple of years. You take your hat off to Lonzo for him trying to work his way back and doing everything he can to get back on the floor. It’s good to see him here.”
And perhaps one day, it will be in uniform and on a court.
“I just miss playing. It’s a big part of my life that’s gone. I mean, I've been playing organized hoops since I was 6,” Ball said. “So to be out these last two years, that's been the toughest part. Just not being able to physically get on the court and put the jersey on and go to battle. But I'm here to help in any way I can. I'm looking forward to the season.”