With Zach LaVine signed, sealed and delivered in the form of a five-year, max contract worth $215 million, there remains no bigger offseason story for the Chicago Bulls than Lonzo Ball's health.
Ball, so crucial to the Bulls' attack at both ends, didn't play after Jan. 14, including the playoffs, and only appeared in 35 games in his first season of a four-year deal in Chicago. When Ball underwent surgery to repair a torn left meniscus in late January, the team estimated his return at six to eight weeks. Instead, a bone bruise that predated the surgery lingered, keeping Ball out.
"Every day he seems to be improving. I think that the progress he has made has been steady. He keeps showing that progress. And that’s really what we all hope to continue to see," coach Billy Donovan said on ESPN2 during Sunday's Bulls-Knicks summer league contest. "We’re obviously all hopeful that it will happen faster. But he is making progress."
This update squares with what general manager Marc Eversley said at the Advocate Center following last month's NBA draft. However, Eversley demurred when asked if Ball could play in games if they were currently taking place, instead saying he'd have to check with the team's performance staff that is regularly visiting Ball in Los Angeles. Obviously, if that answer is a yes, Eversley would've answered as such.
The Bulls signed point guard Goran Dragić in free agency, a move widely viewed as not only the addition of a reliable veteran but one who can serve as insurance should Ball's injury history continues. Ball has never played in more than 63 games, though he did appear in 55 of the New Orleans Pelicans' 72 games in the pandemic-shortened season.
Donovan addressed Dragić's signing for the first time while speaking on the ESPN2 broadcast.
"He's highly competitive. He has been in the league for a long time. He's really, really smart. Gives you a level of experience back there," Donovan said. "And he’s been in a lot of big games and has been around the league for a long time. You have great respect for how hard he competes and plays."
While Donovan didn't mention LaVine's contract, he did credit the All-Star guard with helping create chemistry last season by his ready welcoming of players like Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan. And he noted that LaVine is working out following successful arthroscopic surgery on the left knee that plagued him since January. That will allow LaVine to bring a new trick back to the Bulls, according to Donovan.
"If you look at throughout his career, he has gotten better every single year. He figures something out," Donovan said on the broadcast. "I think for us, (we want) him to continue to be aggressive, be who he is. He’s one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league. He’s obviously great in transition. When he’s decisive and aggressive, that really helps our team."