After losing in the play-in tournament, having their postseason hopes cut short, and failing to jump up in the NBA Draft Lottery, the Chicago Bulls just can’t seem to catch a break, can they? The hits just keep rolling, however, as recent news suggests that the once highly-lauded free agent acquisition of the 2021 offseason Lonzo Ball won’t be suiting up again for the Bulls this season, if ever again.
According to Dan Bernstein of the Chicago-based sports radio show 670 The Score, the situation with Lonzo has never been more dire. In fact, he claims the Bulls’ management doesn’t believe a return to the court will ever be in the cards for him again.
On March 20 earlier this year, Lonzo underwent his third knee surgery to attempt a recovery from his initial injury suffered all the way back in 2021. This time, it was cartilage transplant surgery, a relatively new surgery with the intent of avoiding a total knee replacement. Doctors claimed this was his “best chance” at making a return, but no NBA player has ever made a return to the court following this surgery as of yet.
Now may be the time for the Chicago Bulls to move on from Lonzo Ball and find a different answer at point guard.
This means Ball is essentially relying upon a pipe dream to continue his NBA career. On the hook for just over $20 million this season with a $21 million player option for 2024-25 season, however, Lonzo will have (hopefully) all the time he needs to make a recovery. That being said, I doubt he’ll still be wearing a Bulls jersey if he ever takes the court again.
Chicago has clearly been pressed into a corner with this injury. Not only has the loss of Lonzo completely disintegrated any semblance of an offensive scheme — and thus is the root of iso-heavy offense that has become such a problem in critical situations — but his $20 million in salary is essentially dead cap and has made improving this roster into a contender a virtually impossible task.
If the Bulls can prove without a doubt that Lonzo will not be able to make a return to the court at any point this season, they’ll earn a disabled player exception that can potentially be used to bring in a quality free agent. That being said, I doubt such a verdict will be reached in time for Chicago to add a true impact player. That’s why I believe the Bulls would be much better suited looking for a long-term solution, either through trade or the draft (which ironically, would also require a trade)
I wish Lonzo Ball the best in his recovery process simply because the NBA is a more fun league with him in it, regardless of whether or not he’s suiting up in the red and white. But if we’re being completely rational here, it might just be time to cut our losses — not just from a financial and roster construction point of view, but also the emotional investment in his recovery — and move on while the Chicago Bulls still can.