When Chicago Bulls hosted the Golden State Warriors in a highly-touted January 14 match-up this season, the Bulls were sitting comfortably at No. 1 in the East. They had a chance to establish themselves as a serious championship contender and take down the gold-blooded Warriors.
The pivotal match-up would define the Bull’s season, but not as Chicago hoped. In the first quarter, Zach Lavine left the game with a knee injury that bothered him for the rest of the season. Lonzo Ball followed him, exiting with a knee injury in the fourth, and the Warriors left United Center with a decisive 138-96 victory.
While his injury seemed minor then, Ball’s left knee injury developed into a long and arduous recovery process. The UCLA product was ruled out of the Bulls’ game against the Celtics the following day, officially diagnosed with a bone bruise and small meniscus tear on Jan. 20. On Jan. 28, he underwent surgery with a recovery timeline of six to eight weeks.
Ball’s initial recovery timeline post-surgery was eight weeks. It has now been eight months. Ball suffered a couple of setbacks due to his knee not responding to his recovery program from his January surgery. Ball’s ramp-up process to make a return in the playoffs was cut off due to him suffering some knee discomfort in his knee during his rehab process.
Lonzo Ball’s elite defense and high-IQ, high-pace style played a critical role in Chicago’s 27-13 start to the 2021-22 season. Ball shot a career-high 42.3 percent from beyond the arc, ranked in the top 10 in the League in transition assists, and according to DeMar DeRozan, brought “swagger and excitement to the team.” With Ball at point guard, the Bulls ranked sixth in points per game off turnovers and connected on 38.6 percent threes.
Vice President Arturas Karnisovas stated it clearly: “We missed [Ball] greatly this year. We missed his size, we missed him pushing the break”.
Lacking Ball’s defensive presence and his creation of easy transition buckets, the Bulls fell to 26th in points per game off turnovers, 22nd in the League in three-point percentage, and went 19-23 without Ball in the lineup.
While his precise return timeline remains unclear, Ball is expected to miss the start of the regular season. The Bulls begin their push back to the top of the East on Oct. 19 against the Heat.