The buzz on Thursday night was all around the 2023 NBA Draft. But as the excitement and anticipation that accompanies the annual assignment of the latest batch of talent across the league dissipated, there was some sobering news regarding Lonzo Ball.
The second overall pick of the 2017 draft is not expected to play at all in the upcoming NBA season. As brutal as it sounds, that was the prognosis from Chicago Bulls VP Artūras Karnišovas as he answered questions in the aftermath of the 2023 selection.
“Going into the offseason, I think our expectation is that he’s not coming back next season,” Karnišovas told the assembled media immediately after Thursday’s draft. It was a jarring statement at an otherwise celebratory event.
“He’s going to continue his recovery. If he comes back, it would be great. But we’re just going to treat this offseason and getting ready for the season that he’s not going to be back next season”.
What does the future now hold for Lonzo Ball?
It’s a harsh outlook for 25-year-old Ball and his team. The point guard hasn’t played for the Bulls since January 14, 2022, when a meniscus tear in his left knee halted his season in its tracks.
Ball had been in top form. In the 35 games he’d appeared in to that point, he’d been averaging 13 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. He was also enjoying the best shooting season of his five-season NBA career to date.
Ball’s smooth integration into the Bulls’ roster after arriving the previous summer as part of a trade had also ignited hopes that along with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, the Bulls were onto a championship-building core. They also had the best record in the Eastern Conference when he got injured, at 27-13.
Most recently, in March of this year, Ball underwent cartilage transplant surgery on his injured knee – the third operation he’s had so far in a long, arduous and now increasingly difficult road to recovery.
Trying to remain upbeat, Karnišovas did say that Ball is “recovering nicely. I think last month he got off the crutches and he’s recovering and doing his rehab. Everything is going well.” But without a projected return date, questions are already being asked about whether Ball will be able to return at the same level.
Indeed, in the same breath Karnišovas also hinted at the worst case scenario that could unfold. “I hope eventually we’re going to see him on a basketball court,” he also said. “But I do not think he’s going to be back next year.”
Ball’s importance to the franchise, as outlined in the aforementioned statistics from his half-season of action with them, cannot be underestimated. He was widely seen as the ideal unifying element between the various other talents the Bulls had acquired, and there’s also a financial pressure for Chicago.
Ball arrived in the windy city on a four-year, $80 million contract, which so far has not proven the return on investment they’d anticipated due to his cut-short playing time.
Written and distributed by Chat T Sports.