The Chicago Bulls may have to move on from Lonzo Ball as recent news suggests that the team’s management does not believe he will ever play again. Ball underwent his third knee surgery in March 2023, and while doctors claimed it was his “best chance” at making a return, no NBA player has ever returned to the court following this surgery. With Ball’s $20 million salary essentially dead cap, the loss of him has disintegrated the team’s offensive scheme and made improving the roster into a contender a virtually impossible task. The Bulls may earn a disabled player exception if they can prove that Ball will not be able to make a return to the court this season.
Citing a recent report from Dan Bernstein of the Chicago-based sports radio show 670 The Score, the Chicago Bulls are facing a serious setback with their free agent acquisition of the 2021 offseason, Lonzo Ball. The situation with Lonzo has never been more dire, and the Bulls’ management doesn’t believe a return to the court will ever be in the cards for him again.
This news comes as a major blow to the Bulls, who have already had a tough year. They lost in the play-in tournament, had their postseason hopes cut short, and failed to jump up in the NBA Draft Lottery. And now, they may have to move on from Lonzo Ball and find a different answer at point guard.
Lonzo underwent his third knee surgery on March 20 earlier this year 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.
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 the 2024-25 season, Lonzo will have (hopefully) all the time he needs to make a recovery. That being said, it is doubtful that 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, 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, it is doubtful such a verdict will be reached in time for Chicago to add a true replacement for Lonzo.
The Bulls will have to rely on their current roster to step up and fill the void left by Lonzo’s absence. This may mean giving more playing time to Coby White, who has shown flashes of brilliance but has yet to consistently perform at a high level. It may also mean relying more on Zach LaVine to create offense, which could lead to even more iso-heavy play.
Regardless of what the Bulls do next, it is clear that Lonzo’s career is in serious jeopardy. The once highly-lauded free agent acquisition of the 2021 offseason may never play again, and the Bulls will have to find a way to move on without him. It’s a tough situation for a team that just can’t seem to catch a break.