Bulls' Billy Donovan details Lonzo Ball's latest rehab progress

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Billy Donovan details Lonzo Ball's latest rehab progress originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Lonzo Ball's rehab is progressing. Slowly, yes. But it is progressing.

In addition to Ball himself recently detailing tangible steps made in his recovery from September's latest left knee surgery, Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan provided an update in a pregame media session with reporters ahead of Friday's game against the Pistons.

And unlike most updates on Ball, there were real nuggets to chew on.

"(He is) regularly on the court shooting, which has been good," Donovan said of Ball. "Actually jumping a little bit while shooting. He's been doing some light jogging and I think working through some of that stuff.

"(Since) we last talked, it is progressing, it's just really slow. But there has definitely been some improvements and he's actually doing more physically than the last time we spoke."

The last time Donovan provided a substantive update on Ball was on Nov. 30, when he, like Friday, noted the process has been "really slow" and added Ball was "not even close" to being cleared for contact.

Friday's update does not advance the timeline significantly. As of Ball's last public comments on Dec. 21, he is still experiencing pain in his surgically repaired knee. And as refreshing as it to hear that he is shooting, jumping and jogging (especially because the latter two are new developments), he still has yet to clear the biggest hurdles: Sprinting, cutting and facing contact without pain.

That is where Ball's rehab stalled in the spring, stretching an initial six-to-eight week recovery timeline from surgery to address a meniscus tear in late January into the offseason. After a summer of unsuccessful rehab, which culminated in a sobering media session in which he told reporters he felt inexplicable pain in his knee even while walking up stairs, another operation followed just before the start of training camp.

What's more, Jan. 14, 2023 will mark the one-year anniversary of the last game Ball played. Even if or when he crosses grander thresholds in his rehab, carefully ramping him up to game conditioning and rhythm will be arduous. As could his assimilation process to live action after such a long time away.

The Bulls, of course, are holding out hope that those boxes will be checked before the end of this season. But Donovan was also asked if, in the event that they are not, he is comfortable with the team's current in-house options to man point guard responsibilities, which Ball did so effectively at both ends of the court during the Bulls' torrid start to the 2021-22 season.

"I feel like there's enough there that we can manage that position with what we have," Donovan said, referencing Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White and Alex Caruso. "I feel comfortable that, whoever's back there can orchestrate and organize us."

To this point, the Bulls' internal committee has been serviceable at managing the many responsibilities that come with the point guard position, underwhelming at worst — particularly in relation to management's expectation of playoff success. So time will tell if Donovan's assessment is a coach backing his players or a reflection of the front office's thinking.

But one thing is clear: Returning a healthy Ball is the team's first choice — and has been since they aggressively pursued him at the 2021 trade deadline before eventually landing him in free agency months later. In the 35 games he played, Ball made good on their faith by impacting winning with his shooting, transition playmaking and defensive versatility.

He simply must find a way back to the court to showcase it.

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