Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball will have a third surgery on his left knee and could miss the entirety of the 2023-24 season, according to Shams Charania. Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that he could be sidelined for a full season, and that "there are concerns about Ball's ability to resume his career."
Ball has not played since Jan. 14, 2022, and had already been ruled out for the remainder of the 2022-23 season. When Bulls lead executive Arturas Karnsovas announced on Feb. 21 that Ball would not return, his prepared statement read, in part, "The focus for Ball will continue to be on the resolution of his discomfort and a full return for the 2023-24 season."
Last week, ESPN reported that Ball would likely need to have surgery again, along with "months of recovery and rehabilitation," but its story did not mention the possibility of him missing most or all of next season.
Ball joined the Bulls in a sign-and-trade in the summer of 2021 and, based on early returns, it was a match made in heaven. He averaged 13 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 35 games last season, shooting 42.3% from 3-point range at high volume. Ball forced turnovers, pushed the pace and spread the floor, and without him, Chicago's defense -- and a previously charmed season -- fell apart down the stretch. This year, the Bulls have figured out how to get stops in his absence, but they've desperately missed him on offense.
The No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, Ball is 25 years old and, if not for this series of setbacks, would still be approaching his prime. He was one of the league's most creative passers and best rebounding guards from Day 1, and, when he got hurt in his fifth season, he had developed into an All-Defense candidate and a reliable 3-point shooter.
According to ESPN, Ball still can't run, cut or jump pain-free. If he indeed misses all of next season, then he will be in a contract year when he returns. Ball has a $21.4 million player option for 2024-25.