The Bulls’ Lonzo Ball dunked, making “progress” on his knee rehab

CHICAGO — Just shy of the one-year anniversary of his last game in the NBA, Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball posted a video of himself dunking to his Instagram account, a sign of the slight improvement he said he’d experienced recently in recovering his left knee.

“These are things he probably couldn’t have done six weeks ago,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said before Friday’s game against the Thunder. “As small steps as they are, it is still the progress that he continues to make.”

However, Donovan moderated expectations about the ball’s progression, noting that the base, who has not played in a game since January 14, 2022, still experiences discomfort in his knee when doing basketball activity.

“Is there pain? Yes, there is still some discomfort,” Donovan said. “But not at the level it was six weeks ago.

“I’m not trying to say what Lonzo’s pain is. But the question is, is he in pain? Yes. Is it the same pain he was dealing with six weeks ago? No. How much better is he? He’s good enough that he can ride on the treadmill.” And do some running and he can jump and do dunks.”

Paul told reporters at a team charity event last month that he was seeing some improvement in his surgically repaired knee, the most encouraging signs of his progress after two arthroscopic knee surgeries last January and before the start of training camp in September.

Even if his knee has started to improve rapidly, he hasn’t played basketball in a year. Donovan said Ball would need a “significant condensation period” to increase his stamina and conditioning before he was ready to come back down to earth.

“When you’ve been out for a year, and when he’s back in action, I don’t think it’s wasting a lot of time. I’m going to expect him to pick up exactly where he left off. There’s going to be an adjustment period, there’s no question,” Donovan said.

“There will definitely be a period of time before they let him back in to play so they feel comfortable that he can afford what the NBA schedule looks like.”

The Bulls entered the Friday game 19-23 and in tenth place in the Eastern Conference. Donovan did not believe that the unconfirmed ball injury status would affect the team’s actions at the upcoming February 9 trade deadline, but emphasized the need for the team to recover.

Chicago played All-Star DeMar DeRozan for the second straight game on Friday as he recovers from a quadruple injury. DeRozan did some shooting practice earlier in the day, and while Donovan said the team didn’t think his injury was serious, the Bulls wanted to be careful. The team is also missing striker Javonte Green, who will be re-evaluated in two weeks after knee surgery earlier this week.

There’s still no timeline for Ball’s return and the Bulls are working “with no guarantees” on playing ball this season, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski last month. Ball, 25, appeared in 35 games his first season in Chicago, averaging 13 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 43% of 3 to go along with the elite defense.

The Bulls have struggled to repeat his production in the year since his absence, going 38-46 overall since the last bowl game.

“He’s a huge part of our team,” guard Zack LaVine said in the shootout Friday morning. “He does a lot of attacking and defensive play and I think his impact shows. It’s hard to replace anyone in your team, but like this guy, you know you’re not going to replace him.

“He’s just working. The injuries are bad and I think he’s taking it harder than anyone else because it’s his career, his game. He’s the guy who has to do the work every day. Just keep his balance and confidence in the work he’s doing. He’ll come back eventually, but not There’s a benefit to rushing into it now. Just make sure he feels good.”

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