Lonzo Ball will have left knee surgery next week and miss the start of the season as the Chicago Bulls continue to seek answers for their starting point guard’s lingering injury.
The Bulls announced Wednesday that Ball on Sept. 28 will undergo an arthroscopic debridement — a procedure that removes cartilage, tissue and other debris — of his left knee. The procedure will take place in Los Angeles, where Ball has spent the offseason attempting to rehab the injury initially suffered in January.
Ball will be reevaluated four to six weeks after the procedure, sidelining him through at least the first five games of the season. His absence is likely to stretch longer.
By the time he is reevaluated, Ball will have gone more than 10 months without being able to run at full speed or scrimmage with contact, and that volume of missed games will require a lengthy onboarding back into the weekly workload of the regular season.
In the meantime, Ball’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the Bulls lineup, which will rely on second-year pro Ayo Dosunmu and veteran Alex Caruso to shoulder the load at point guard.
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Ball’s path to recovery seemed simple after a Jan. 28 surgery to address a meniscus injury in his left knee. At the time, the Bulls predicted Ball would return by the end of the regular season to run the offense in the playoffs.
Complicated by a deep bone bruise in the same knee, Ball remained plagued by pain and discomfort that prevented him from running at full speed. He eventually was shut down midway through the first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bulls front office remained vague about Ball’s recovery path throughout the summer, but executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas and general manager Marc Eversley both hinted at concerns about Ball’s return during the offseason.
“He’s progressing. That’s as much as I can say,” Karnišovas said July 12 during an NBA TV telecast. “He’s getting better — probably not at the speed that we would like, but he is getting better. Hopefully he’s going to be ready for training camp, (but) that’s just our hopes.”
Injuries have plagued Ball throughout his career. He has yet to play more than 65% of a single season, suffering a sprained MCL, a torn ankle ligament and injuries to his adductor, knee, hip flexor, shoulder and thumb during prior stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans.
As the Bulls prepare to open training camp Tuesday, they face a major crisis in filling Ball’s position. They did not target another primary ballhandler in the offseason, which means they’ll be forced to rely on Dosunmu and Caruso to open the season.
Besides his ability to spark the Bulls in transition with pinpoint passes, Ball’s defensive instincts are nearly inimitable. The Bulls struggled to maintain defensive pressure in the final months of the season without Ball.