Bulls' Lonzo Ball has no concern knee issues are career-threatening

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Ball has no concern knee issues are career-threatening originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

PARIS --- Two days removed from the 1-year anniversary of when he last played in an NBA game, Lonzo Ball took the court at Palais des sports Marcel-Cerdan after the Chicago Bulls bussed right from the airport for a short practice on Monday.

Unfortunately for Ball and the Bulls, the impactful point guard only did so to address a small handful of reporters.

Patiently answering question after question about a seemingly interminable rehabilitation process that still has no timetable for his return, Ball emphasized that he’s remaining mentally strong following two surgical procedures on his left knee and that he still hopes to return this season.

But Ball also acknowledged given that he has yet to be cleared for cutting or running full speed daily and needs a significant ramp-up period if he gets that clearance without issue, he’s running out of time.

“I mean, naturally, yeah, everything is on a time schedule,” Ball said, when asked about the possibility of running out of time. “But I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up.

“I would love to play. I would never count that out. It’s a long year, I feel like we’re hitting our stride right now. So hopefully I can keep getting better, the team will keep getting better and we can meet up.”

Ball posted videos of himself dunking off one foot and running on a treadmill last Friday, the day before the 1-year anniversary of his absence. Ball underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in late January 2022 and then an arthroscopic debridement in late September, just before training camp.

Asked why he posted the videos to social media, Ball had a ready answer.

“Just that the process was starting. To be able to do something, getting back on the floor a little bit, starting to run on the treadmill,” he said. “Obviously, there’s still some discomfort and some hitching in there. But it’s the process of getting everything started.

“That was my first time running in pretty much a year. So just for me it was positive just to get on a treadmill and do something. It’s not my normal gait. Obviously, I’ve got to work through that. There’s going to be pain there because of the surgeries and I’m getting back in and moving things. But I’m just trying to stay positive and move forward.’’

Sources said the Bulls have some insurance---the amount wasn't revealed by those sources---on his four-year, $80 million contract if the drastic scenario of him never playing again materialized. Ball said he doesn’t “have any concern” about that hypothetical outcome.

“I just think it’s time consuming,” Ball said. “This is my third surgery, I had two last year. It’s about building that strength back up and the confidence in myself. I’m only 25, so I’m not too worried about (career-ending injury.)”

Ball said the mental component of such a long absence has been trying but that he’s surrounded by good people during the process.

“I can’t focus on the negative right now,” he said. “I mean it’s the longest I’ve ever been out. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, so for me it’s a lot, especially just watching the guys every night and watching them go on planes and come back and stuff. And I’m always just watching practice, I feel like. I’ve just got to stay positive and do what I can to get on the court.’’

That’s where the Bulls want him badly, of course. They went 21-14 in his first injury-free games after signing that contract and getting traded by the Pelicans. Ball’s two-way ability, 3-point shooting, push-ahead passes and selfless, joyful style electrified the team at times.

“It’s a team sport. I think (executive vice president) AK (Arturas Karnisovas) and (general manager) Marc (Eversley) had a good idea of what they wanted the team to look like and that’s why they brought me in to do what I was supposed to do.

“Obviously, I’m out right now and that’s the missing piece of the team. But like I said, it’s a long year, we’re beating the really good teams this year and we’ve just got to keep putting it together each day.’’

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