Lonzo Ball

What's the Bulls' plan for Lonzo Ball? Artūras Karnišovas shares his thoughts

Lonzo's dad recently said he believes his son still has 4-5 months before he can play with full contact

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After a second straight play-in loss to the Heat --- marking the second straight year the Bulls have failed to make the playoffs --- Artūras Karnišovas admitted change is on the way for the organization.

“I am going to look at totality of the group. This group hasn’t worked," Karnišovas said at the Advocate Center on Saturday. "There’s a lot of great things in certain individual players and a lot of young guys who took a step forward and it’s positive. But in totality as a group, it didn’t work. So I’m going to have to find these answers in offseason.”

MORE: Bulls' Artūras Karnišovas vows to make changes

Part of that equation is their sidelined point guard, Lonzo Ball, who's continuing to work back from three separate knee surgeries that have kept him off the floor since January 2022. Recently, Ball's status has improved, uninterrupted with clearance to cut, sprint and ramp up physical activity.

On the radio with 670 The Score during the first week of April, Ball's father, LaVar, projected his son has 4-to-5 months before he can play 5-on-5 basketball with full contact. Right now, Lonzo still has some hurdles to clear.

A four-month timeline from LaVar's projection slates Lonzo to a near return around August; a return closer to five months would put him in early September. With the 2024 NBA Draft slated to commence on June 27, and NBA free agency opening three days after that, Ball' creates a difficult timeline for the Bulls to figure out his place during a turning point in the organization.

The one certainty in Ball's situation? He will undoubtedly pick up his player option for the 2024-25 season, worth $21.3 million. If Ball can't return by the season, and his injury is deemed career-ending by an independent doctor, the Bulls can earn $21 million in salary cap relief.

From a human perspective, everyone at the United Center is rooting for Ball. His pending return would set a benchmark in sports medicine history, as seemingly zero athletes have ever returned from an injury of his degree.

Still, the Bulls are building a team; one that Karnišovas said Wednesday needs change. How will the Bulls handle Ball's situation?

"We’re just going to wait and see his progression the next couple of months," Karnisovas said. "He’s progressing well. Everything is looking with no setbacks. So we’ll see where he’s at in a couple of months."

Everyone wants to see Ball get back on the floor. He's been a key cog missing from a Bulls team starved of a tantalizing facilitator, 3-point shooter and elite perimeter defender alongside Alex Caruso. But his situation creates an awkward standing for the Bulls.

The backcourt is getting crowded with Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu coming off seasons where they each took major strides in their young careers. And the impending futures of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams make it more difficult for the Bulls' front office to navigate their cap situation entirely.

But the Bulls have already supported Ball's recovery for the last 2.5 seasons he's been sidelined. There's no reason for them to quit on their point guard now, especially when his rehab is on an upward trajectory.

"He’s improving," Karnisovas said of Ball. "We’ll see where he is at next couple of months. There's no setbacks, so we’ll see where he's at in terms of on-court and the basketball side. So we’ll figure it out."

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