After months of disappointing updates on Lonzo Ball’s health, the final straw has been drawn. Following two surgeries in the past 12 months on his left knee injuries, the original expectation was a return in early 2023. It has only been pushed further into the future with every coming update, with little evidence as to why. Shams Charania provided the latest insight into Ball’s injury status and Bulls fans may want to take a deep breath before seeing it.
Officially Shut Down
Following news of the Patrick Beverley addition, it was only a matter of time before this news broke. With no moves at the trade deadline, there was a sliver of hope that Ball may return for the postseason, but the addition of Beverley quickly dismantled it. The Bulls sorely missed a point guard all season long, and the last 48 hours have provided the complete answer to the rest of the season’s band-aid fix at the position. The franchise expects Ball to progress toward a full-recovery return for the start of the 2023-24′ season.
“Despite making significant increases in strength and function over the past several months, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball continues to experience performance limiting discomfort during participation in high level basketball-related activities. Considering the required time period to achieve the necessary level of fitness to return-to-play and the current stage of the NBA season, Ball will not return this season. The focus for Ball will continue to be on the resolution of his discomfort and a full return for the 2023-24 season.”Arturas Karnisovas on Lonzo Ball’s injury status
Expectation Versus Reality
The toughest pill to swallow surrounding Lonzo Ball’s injury status and absence for the entire season is what could have been. Before his injury last season, the Bulls were leading the Eastern Conference, had an MVP candidate, Coach of the Year candidate, and two all-stars, firing on absolutely all cylinders. They were on pace for their best record since the 2011-12′ season, over ten years prior.
Crashing down to reality after Ball’s injury, the Bulls finished 6th in the Eastern Conference and lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs. Heading to the offseason with a glimmer of what this team can do when fully healthy, things went the opposite direction before the first tip-off. Zach LaVine’s quietly reported knee injury held him out of games early and slowed him out of the gate, the only point guard solution was veteran addition Goran Dragic, and the team has yet to break .500 a single time this season with zero winning streaks longer than three games.
Where To Now?
Staring down the barrel of 23 games to a potentially franchise-altering offseason, what’s next? The quick answer, a major gamble. With only a 15% chance of making the postseason and a 32% chance of landing in the top four of the 2023 draft, Chicago has chosen to pursue the former and is risking nearly everyone in the organization’s future in the process. Snagging Patrick Beverley and publicly making it known that they’re full-steam ahead for a postseason push, LaVine echoed these intentions for the remainder of the year loud and clear.
The worst case scenario at this point, and the most likely scenario using analytical data, is the Bulls miss the playoffs entirely and more than likely land between 5-and-14 in the draft order, which would send their pick to Orlando as part of the Nikola Vucevic trade a few seasons ago. They’d then hit the drawing board this offseason following one of the most disappointing seasons in the last decade, and major changes could be on the horizon.
“We’ve done deals that in the summertime that a lot of people said we couldn’t do. I think there are ways to improve it. It’s just the timing is going to depend on when you make those moves,” Karnišovas said. “This is just a collection of information, these next 28 games, of where we are.”Arturas Karnisovas via NBC Chicago
With Lonzo Ball officially shut down for the year, Patrick Beverley recently coming home to wear the red and black, and 23 games until possible destruction, where do you see the Chicago Bulls going from here and beyond?