Health will be a major factor for the Chicago Bulls next season and for one player in particular: Lonzo Ball. A stronger-than-expected start put the Bulls in first place in the Eastern Conference for much of the campaign.
But a string of injuries left them with a shell of their pre-All-Star break as they went 7-15 in the streak, good for 14th in the East.
This offseason has largely revolved around Zach LaVine’s free agency. But the two-time All-Star also underwent knee arthroscopy. He is expected to make a full recovery. But some thought it could have an impact on his next contract.
LaVine isn’t the only injury issue though, as Ball has missed the final 42 games of the regular season.
ball on ball
Ball opened up about his health and his future, not just in Chicago, but in the NBA during a recent meeting with successor companya joint venture of Bulls legend Michael Jordan and his son, Jeffrey, in the Magic Eden market.
The five-year veteran helps promote Heir’s “6 Rings” collection, a digital tribute to the Bulls championships of yore.
Ball also said he was looking forward to helping the Bulls go for a seventh ring.
“I’m really excited for the future. My contract is four years here…it’s only my first year so I still have time to improve and leave my mark on this city and help bring a championship here…can’t wait to be there.
Ball was acquired in a sign-and-trade last summer and signed to a four-year, $80 million deal, per Spotrac.
But the former second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft also knows he needs to be on the court to make the kind of impact the Bulls need from him.
The Bulls had the third-best offensive rating and the 11th-best defensive rating, according to NBA.com, before getting blasted by the Golden State Warriors in Ball’s final season appearance on Jan. 14. The loss dropped their offensive and defensive ratings to fifth and 18th respectively.
From that point on, they had the offensive rating ranked 20th and the defense ranked 26th.
Impure health check
The mysterious case of Ball’s ailing knee took several twists and turns. After initially dealing with pain, Ball’s injury turned out to be a torn meniscus which required surgery. The Bulls gave him a 6-8 week recovery schedule that came and went as Ball struggled with lingering pain.
The pain caused them to halt his build-up process over the course of the season. He also admitted during his exit interview that his rehab stalled due to the lingering discomfort.
Ball knows he needs to be physically fine.
“For me… moving forward, it’s definitely about my body. I know I have just the skills to perform at a high level every night. Now it’s more about just being available to do these things… I just have to be healthy and everything else falls in line from there.
There was a report from ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan that Ball’s lack of knee improvement was of concern to some within the organization.
Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, joined Kaplan on an episode of “ReKap” to dispute any long-term health concerns for his son – it’s the second procedure he’s had on the same knee. The elder Ball also suggested the Bulls mismanaged the injury initially, which could explain the initial diagnosis.
Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas also seemed confident in his exit interview that they would get Ball back in shape ahead of next season.
The impact of the ball on the bulls
With Ball on the ground, the Bulls’ offense was 4.0 points worse per 100 possessions, per Cleaning The Glass. It was the team’s fourth-worst mark. But their defense was 8.6 points better, second-best among the Bulls. While this was by far his most positive defensive season, it was his worst offensively.
But he’s only a year away from hitting a career high in that regard as well, adding 4.4 points per 100 possessions for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Either way, just ask his teammates what they miss when he’s not with them.
Another year with the current core group and we got to see Ball put together his best campaign yet. That’s assuming he’s healthy, though. Although it has seemed far from a certainty so far, the player himself remains optimistic, which is as good a sign as any.