Lonzo Ball's rehab timeline uncertain, but progress made


Lonzo Ball's timeline to return from his latest left knee surgery in September remains as uncertain as ever.

But to hear the Chicago Bulls' point guard tell it himself, he has made strides in his rehab, including improvement in his day-to-day functionality and some stationary shooting drills.

"It's been a crazy journey, been a crazy therapy," Ball said as he participated in a charity gift drive with the Chicago-based nonprofit Fathers, Families & Healthy Communities. "Everything is just trying to get back on the court. Unfortunately, I'm not there yet, but we're still working on everything.

"Day by day, I'm trying to remain positive and keep getting better, even if it's an inch better every day. Just try not to move backwards."

Ball's "crazy journey" featured surgery to repair a meniscus tear way back in January, which initially carried a six-to-eight week recovery timeline but eventually held him out for the rest of the 2021-22 season. His rehab process continued in the offseason, but did not improve enough for him to return to the court.

Instead, as a last resort for both him and the Bulls, Ball underwent a second surgery ahead of training camp. In a wide-ranging media session with reporters before that operation, he confessed to having trouble doing day-to-day activities such as walking up stairs without feeling pain.

Asked about the latter dynamic on Tuesday, Ball said he is progressing.

"Last couple weeks, I'm finally seeing some improvement, which is nice to see," he said. "It's still not obviously where I want to be. But it's definitely positive light at the end of the tunnel."

Ball has also, for the first time in long time, touched a basketball recently. As Billy Donovan recently told reporters, he has participated in some stationary shooting drills.

"Finally got to touch the ball. Feel like I hadn't played in so long," Ball said. "The shot's not going anywhere, so now it's just about getting the legs right."

Asked where he is in the process of getting his legs back to full health, he added: "I can't give you a specific time when I'll be back. It's still a ways out unfortunately. But I am touching a ball finally, I am on the court doing some things, things I haven't done this year."

That's the good news.

The bad — or uncertain — news is that Ball continues to experience pain in his knee, which he says he is determined to find a way to manage in his pursuit of returning to game action.

"A lot of mobility stuff, trying to work through the pain," he said when asked what his rehab process has been like. "The pain is there, pretty sure it's gonna be there. Just figuring out how we can get through it to a point I can produce on the court."

And while he said his mental state is solid given the support he has received from his friends, family, teammates and the Bulls' staff, it has been frustrating for him to endure the ups and downs of the Bulls' 12-18 start to the season from the sideline.

"I'm not gonna lie, it's hard for me. Really hard for me," he said. "I think we have a great team, and I know some things I can do to help this team out. But unfortunately, I'm not on the court right now."

Given that Ball still has yet to sprint or cut at full-speed without experiencing discomfort (that is the snag he hit in his rehab process in the spring), and Donovan has repeatedly stressed there will be a lengthy ramp up period for him even if or when he does, the time when he is on the court remains a distant hope for the Bulls and its fans.

But what's certain is Ball is doing everything he can to make it a reality.

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