CHICAGO “When will Lonzo Ball be back?” What is the Ball chart? Who will start instead of him? It became clear that the main storyline of the Chicago Bulls’ media day on Monday was Ball’s status, which will have another knee operation that will keep him sidelined for at least 4-6 weeks. It’s a significant loss for the Bulls, who have been without Ball since last January, when he initially tore his meniscus. At the time, he was expected to return in 4-6 weeks, but he flew past that schedule and was never eligible for Chicago again last season after failing in rehab. Then last week it was announced that he would have a second operation on the same knee on Wednesday, meaning the Bulls would have to start the season without a starting point guard.
“There was a point where we were warming up and stuff and I was going through certain days and everything was fine,” Ball said during a video call with reporters. “Then whenever I got into real basketball games, I just couldn’t do it. Unfortunately, this is what is at hand, and this must be dealt with. We again feel that surgery is the best option.”
Ball described his situation as unique considering how long it took to get back on the floor.
“I’ve never felt pain like this and couldn’t gain a little bit of strength, but never completely, so it’s definitely a unique situation,” Ball said. “Doctors and Bulls, we are all trying to figure out what it is. As I said, we all came to the conclusion that it was time for the operation.”
As for the timing of the return, Ball is more focused on healing his knee first before thinking about a new game, however he said he doesn’t think it will cause him to miss the entire season.
“I don’t think about it right now, but that would be the worst-case scenario,” Ball said. “Right now I’m at the point where I know I can’t go back there until I’m comfortable playing and can actually play. So whenever that day comes, I’ll wear the jersey again.”
It’s not the best way to start the season for Chicago, especially given the tough game the Bulls have right in front of the net against the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics in the first five games. But Chicago will have to struggle without Ball for now, which means that in his absence, a starting point guard must be appointed. While some may have expected head coach Billy Donovan to name Ball’s replacement during Media Day on Monday, he is waiting to see how training camp plays out before retracting that information.
“I don’t want to sit and say that everything is open, but we need to compete,” Donovan said. “We need to see how – I’m more concerned about how the bands function and play together rather than just one position. And I really think that in the point guard position there is the experience that we got with Goran. [Dragic]there is experience with Alex [Caruso]. I think now there is experience with Ayo [Dosunmu]Kobe [White] reproduced there. So I think that’s enough for now, who’s starting, how it’s going, and initial work, I’m really not as passionate about it right now as we can define who we want to be as a team in the future. “
Donovan isn’t wrong, the Bulls have a lot of talent at fullback, which will make it hard to decide on a starting lineup. They could go with Dragic, who Chicago signed as a free agent this summer and showed at EuroBasket that at 36 years old, there’s definitely something else in store. Dragic would be the perfect facilitator alongside Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, and the pick-and-roll between him and Nikola Vucevic would be flawless. However, Donovan mentioned on Monday that taking Dragic off the bench could be more rewarding given his status as a senior statesman.
“Of course Goran, when you look at him and his experience and what he has done throughout his career, is by far the most experienced and accomplished point guard on our team,” Donovan said. “But it’s the same at 36 and I think he’ll be the first to admit that he’s not the kind of guy who plays 36 minutes a game. you need time to shorten the game and if he comes off the bench it will put him in a situation where you can play a lot more with him, maybe eventually.”
Okay, then maybe Dragik won’t start.
Moving further down the Chicago Depth Chart, we see young guys in Ayo Dosunma and Kobe White who already have experience starting point guard with the Bulls last season. Dosunmu got more points in that position when Ball fell, and when he shared the floor with LaVine, DeRozan, Javonte Green and Nikola Vucevic, Chicago’s offense scored 1.8 more points per game than the season average. Dosunmu surprised a lot of people in his rookie season with how well he adapted on the fly when the Bulls needed him to fill such a big role. He was effective when he shot the ball (52 percent from the field, 37.6 percent from deep), and he put in a lot of effort defensively so as not to be a burden. And while he didn’t replace Ball’s production at both ends of the floor, he did help keep the Bulls afloat after Ball went down, which should certainly carry some weight when figuring out who should be in the starting lineup.
As for White, even though his minutes were down from last season, he proved to be a valuable role player when he was on the floor. He’s more of a combo defender who can play with or without the ball, which is perfect when you have guys like DeRozan and LaVine who do most of the damage through dribbling. He excelled at three-point shots, knocking down a career-high 38.5% of his shots, and finished 70th among shooters in the league last season. This type of shooting is critical to LaVine and DeRozan’s entourage, and if he stays consistent with it, he might be able to get into the starting position.
The last option is Caruso, a defensive pest who will simply outplay everyone on the floor. When Caruso shared the field with Ball last season, they formed arguably the strongest backcourt in the league, and early in the season it took a toll on the rest of the Bulls. Caruso’s starting lineup will greatly improve Chicago’s defense, but his shaky shooting record last season is worrisome. Caruso shot 39.8% from the field and only 33% from deep, which, of course, will not make the defense afraid to leave him open. But perhaps some of those shooting problems can be attributed to multiple injuries and the fight against COVID, which kept Caruso in just 41 games last year. If he can get the same amount of shots he did last season with the Lakers (43.6% from the field, 40.1% from the field), then it will be hard not to fire him, given that he is by far the best. The Bulls defenseman will have to choose a replacement for Ball.
Whoever gets the starting spot, it’s clear that Donovan has options to replace Ball, which is a good challenge. While none of them can truly replace all that Ball brings when he’s on the floor, there’s enough talent here to work to at least keep Chicago’s head above water until he’s back, whenever it is. happened. We’ll just have to see in training camp which of these guys stand out from the rest and, as Donovan said, which combination of five would put Chicago in the best position to win the games.