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Chicago basketball report: Lonzo Ball returns to Bulls practice — and Sky trade for No. 3 pick in 2024 draft

Lonzo Ball is back in Chicago with the Bulls. NBA commissioner Adam Silver made the final two All-Star selections, shutting the Bulls out of the game for the first time since 2020.

The Chicago Sky are starting over after trading Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury.

Every Wednesday throughout the season, Tribune writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead — for the Bulls, Sky and local basketball.

Lonzo Ball makes limited return to Chicago Bulls practice

More than two years since he last played an NBA game, guard Lonzo Ball returned to the Advocate Center on Monday for Bulls practice.

Ball did not participate in the practice itself, but he talked to teammates and coaches while observing the training session. He spent time with director of player development Peter Patton working on his perimeter shooting. While working with Patton, Ball showcased his 3-point shooting, which was a key part of his game during his limited time with the Bulls.

Ball still has not attempted straight-ahead sprinting, which was previously a goal set for January before he was sidelined with an illness at the end of the month. Coach Billy Donovan said Ball’s medical team has yet to communicate a new date when he will attempt running, which he has not been able to do without pain since injuring his left knee in January 2022.

Sky set to begin rebuild with No. 3 overall pick in 2024

The Chicago Sky made one of the most surprising moves of WNBA free agency Tuesday when they sent star Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick in 2024, plus second-rounders in 2025 and a first-rounder in 2026.

With the roster no longer centered around Copper, the Sky are set to embark upon a rebuild with new coach Teresa Weatherspoon and new general manager Jeff Pagliocca at the helm. Securing this year’s No. 3 overall pick is a solid foundation to build upon.

WNBA offseason tracker: Chicago Sky are trading Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury

The Sky will likely not land Caitlin Clark, who is destined for a future with the Indiana Fever — who won the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery — if she enters the draft this year. But at No. 3, the Sky will have a wide selection of top-rated talent to choose from as they start a rebuild around a new star. The full slate of players declaring for this year’s draft has yet to be set, but the group could contain top names like Cameron Brink, Paige Bueckers, Angel Reese, Rickea Jackson and Kamilla Cardoso.

Bulls shut out of the NBA All-Star game

The Bulls will not have a representative in the NBA All-Star game for the first time since 2020.

Commissioner Adam Silver selected Trae Young and Scottie Barnes as the two injury replacement players to fill out this year’s roster. Barring another injury, the Bulls will be completely shut out of this year’s Eastern Conference roster. DeMar DeRozan was the only Bulls player to land in the top 20 of Eastern Conference fan voting this season.

Zach LaVine and DeRozan represented the Bulls in the past three All-Star weekends: LaVine in 2021 and 2022 and DeRozan in 2022 and 2023. The team was also represented by Ayo Dosunmu in the Rising Stars contest in 2022 and 2023.

The NBA All-Star game will take place on Feb. 18 in Indianapolis.

Number of the week: 37.3

As the Bulls continue to muddle through a season punctuated by injuries, the team’s most veteran player is picking up the slack.

DeMar DeRozan averages 37.3 minutes per game. It’s the second-highest average in the league, just narrowly behind Luka Dončić (37.6 minutes per game). At age 34, DeRozan is spending fewer than 11 minutes on the bench each game. That’s a problem for the Bulls — and one without a solution, unless they make a trade at the deadline this week.

This is a roster-wide issue for the Bulls. Coby White — who has logged the most total minutes of any NBA player this season — averages 36 minutes per game, the ninth-highest in the league.

Coach Billy Donovan has attempted to adapt player workloads to accommodate this concern. White and Alex Caruso sat out multiple practices in the last week and Donovan limited White’s minutes in the first half of Saturday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings. But there’s only so much the Bulls can do with the current status of their roster.

“It’s hard with Zach being out, with Patrick being out, with Torrey being out,” Donovan said. “You’re going to have to play somebody. I’m not sitting here saying the minutes for those guys are ideal or what you want, but those guys are healthy and they feel good playing. But it is what it is.”

Week ahead: Bulls

What we’re reading this morning

Quotable

“We feel we have enough. We have a lot of stuff we can do better on the court. We’ve also had some stuff, like injuries, that’s unfortunate to deal with. But I believe we have enough.” — center Nikola Vučević on the status of the Bulls ahead of the trade deadline