Chicago Bulls’ Lonzo Ball expected to start running in January: ‘The pain that he was experiencing has been eliminated’

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Lonzo Ball is expected to begin running again in January as the next step of his nearly two-year-long recovery process from a knee injury.

Ball returned to Chicago last week to meet with Bulls staff and outline a plan for the next steps of his recovery after undergoing a rare cartilage transplant in March.

The Bulls received a $10.2 million disabled player exception for Ball in July and do not anticipate he will return to the court in a game until the 2024-25 season. But coach Billy Donovan said the team has been bolstered by Ball’s response to his third knee procedure.

Ball has been able to progress with weight and mobility training and stationary shooting while recovering in Los Angeles over the past six months. Most importantly, Donovan said Ball is pain-free at this point in his recovery after suffering chronic pain in everyday activities for the first year after the injury.

If Ball does not experience pain when he returns to running in January, he will be closer to a return to the court than he’s been since January 2022.

“Everything they’ve done in terms of progressing him he’s handled very well,” Donovan said. “The pain that he was experiencing that was causing the setback I think has been eliminated in terms of what he’s doing now — but he hasn’t run. The next progression for him will be to start running and that will be here in January.”

Jan. 14 will mark two years since Ball first tore his meniscus in a game against the Golden State Warriors. At the time, the injury seemed fairly pedestrian — the Bulls provided a 6-8 week recovery window after he underwent surgery on Jan. 20, 2022. It was expected he would return to the lineup by March to helm the offense through the playoffs.

Instead, Ball’s recovery became dominated by setbacks. He attempted several ramp-up periods before he was finally shut down on April 6. More than five months later, Ball said he was still experiencing pain doing basic tasks like walking up and down the stairs at home ahead of undergoing an arthroscopic debridement in September 2022.

There were flashes of hope throughout the process — Ball posted videos of himself lifting weights and dunking on a hoop at the Advocate Center in January 2023, but despite those small improvements he continued to experience pain and discomfort in “high-level basketball activities” until the Bulls shut him down for a second season on Feb. 21.

No player has ever undergone a knee cartilage transplant and returned to play in the NBA. But the Bulls are hopeful that Ball will change that statistic next season. Running will be the next step in that process.


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