Lonzo Ball's knee situation continues to look grim. The Chicago Bulls guard hasn't played since Jan. 14 of last season, when he was originally diagnosed with a seemingly innocuous knee bruise. After evaluation, it was determined Ball had a torn meniscus, for which he underwent surgery. He was expected back in six to eight weeks.
Spring arrived. Then summer, and by September a second surgery was deemed necessary because Ball still was not able to run or jump without pain. It's now been 54 weeks since his last NBA game and it doesn't look like he will be returning any time soon. On Saturday, Chicago coach Billy Donovan said Ball is "nowhere near" a return to the court, per Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune.
"He's made some progress, but I'd be the first one to tell you he's nowhere near playing," Donovan said. "He's just not. Because he's not running on a consistent basis. When he can get to that place where he can do that consistently and be able to come back the next day and do it again, do it again and do it again — I think you'll feel a little bit more optimistic."
Ball still isn't running at full speed. He can't scrimmage or play basketball. Although he has made marginal improvements — lightly jumping to shoot and dunk the ball, jogging on a treadmill — none is enough to signal that Ball will be cleared in the coming weeks for sprinting or other high-intensity drills. And until he can sprint at full speed for multiple days in a row without a setback, Ball can't be cleared for contact drills, scrimmaging or getting back onto an NBA court.
Finally, Poe noted that short of Ball making a "drastic improvement" over the next three weeks, the Bulls will sit down over the All-Star break to discuss officially ruling him out for the rest of the season and what his future might hold.
Obviously, this is bleak. It's been a year and he still can't run or jump and anything near full speed? It's a real bummer, because prior to the injury Ball had really found his niche in the league as a knock-down 3-point shooter, transition pilot and versatile and disruptive defender. The Bulls would look like a far better teams with him out there.
At this point, it's fair to start wondering whether Ball will ever be the same player, or even whether he'll get back on the court at all.