Lonzo Ball will reportedly not be ready for the Chicago Bulls training camp and is doubtful for the start of the regular season.
The worst kind of Friday news dump. What a gut punch.
We all know what the Bulls were when Ball was playing and what they turned into after he got hurt. In so many ways, he embodied everything that made the Bulls good — defensive versatility, transition offense, ball movement and shooting. He was a pillar of their identity on both sides of the ball. His absence was like removing a leg from a bar stool.
This is awful news and though I could easily slip into a 2011 Derrick Rose-sized rabbit hole with this, the sky hasn’t completely fallen. Bone bruises take a long time to heal, but they aren’t career enders. The Bulls aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot, but it’s much more important for Ball to be available at the end the season than the start. He could be back at any point and the Bulls could be back on their way.
But no two ways about it, this is awful news, and the continued cryptic messaging doesn’t ease my long term concerns.
It may be reductive to say a zero-time All-Star and zero-time All-Defensive player will determine the outcome of your season. There’s certainly some truth in it, but more importantly, his loss immediately highlight the flaws in the rest of the roster. When there is zero capacity to withstand his absence, there are larger problems at hand.
As the rest of the Eastern Conference teams continue to load up and get better, the Bulls are living on the edge. That’s why the idea of continuity — making only fringe improvements — was always an insufficient. So much of continuity banked on health with players who have never proven they can stay healthy. So what happens to that continuity now?
In retrospect, we should have seen the writing on the wall. From Arturas Karnisovas and Billy Donovan’s cryptic comments about his health during Summer League to drafting Dalen Terry and signing Goran Dragic, the Bulls seemed determined to add length and play making without making any promises.
Dragic may well be in line for a starter job and you can bet this puts even more unfair pressure on Patrick Williams, Ayo Dosunmu and Terry to outperform expectations and take on larger roles.
Mark Karantzoulis and I had a deeper dive on Ball’s importance to the roster and whether his impact may be overstated. I suggest going back and listening. Ball obviously changes the ceiling and floor of this Bulls team, but the Bulls now have to prepare themselves to play without him for who knows how long.
The Ball injury will garner the headlines, as it should. But the bigger picture problems are just as glaring. With training camp around the corner, the front office has just a few weeks to figure out a plan of action. I’m not ready to go full Utah Jazz and tear it down for picks, but this sure is a brutal way to start September.