Despite not having played an NBA game in 593 days and counting, Lonzo Ball never fails to find a way to make headlines, does he? Fortunately, it’s for all the right reasons this time, as the Chicago Bulls point guard has moved past petty internet feuds and appears to have his head in the right place as he slowly but surely makes his way back to the court.
Ball has managed to keep himself busy ever since suffering a season-ending knee injury in January of 2022, as he was recently spotted at Invest Fest in Atlanta, a prolific convention for all things to do with the business world. Although he was there on business, he could not escape from the basketball side of his life. When asked about his future prospects in the NBA, however, he did not hesitate to make this bold proclamation:
“I’m going to play again.”
These bold words were delivered in an almost Terminator-esque fashion, but hopefully, there proves to be more fact than fiction in this story Lonzo is weaving. The Bulls will be counting on just that; after all, Ball did help propel Chicago to a 22-13 record with averages of 13 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game before his injury in the first year of his deal.
Ball excelled at spacing the floor with an incredible 42.3% three-point percentage, stifling offenses both as a perimeter defender and against larger attackers in the low post, and helped the Bulls pick up the pace with his exceptional full-court vision on the fast break. It should come as no surprise that Chicago has struggled mightily in all three of these areas since losing Lonzo; it cannot be overstated how much it would help to have a player like him around now.
Lonzo Ball’s road to redemption looks to be a long one as he continues recovering from a knee injury with the Bulls.
Following advice from doctors that Lonzo would not be able to play this season, the Bulls submitted an application to the league office for the Disabled Player Exception. The DPE grants Chicago the ability to sign a free agent or trade for a contracted player in the last year of their contract for an amount of up to 50% of the injured player’s contract — in this case, approximately $10.2 million.
As fortunate as the Bulls were to have the DPE granted to them, you can’t help but think that they would still be so much better off if Ball was available to play. Lonzo also addressed these concerns, even clarifying that his back-and-forth exchange with Stephen A. Smith was little more than a temporary distraction from his ultimate goal of returning to the court.
"“The outside noise doesn’t bother me. The Stephen A. thing, he has a wide platform. And to me, I just don’t appreciate when people put out fake news like that, especially someone of his stature that can touch a lot of people… For me, I know what I gotta do to get back. And I’m just on a path doing what I gotta do every day, taking it step-by-step. I don’t look too far ahead. I know in my near future that I will be back on the court for sure.”"
Even though he will be sidelined for the entirety of the 2023-24 season, Ball still has a player option that will pay him $21.4 million for the 2024-25 campaign. If Lonzo makes good on his word and is ready to go by then, we may finally see just what this team is capable of when at full strength. If not, Lonzo Ball will firmly go down as one of the most disappointing free agent acquisitions in Chicago Bulls history.