Artūras Karnišovas opens up on Lonzo Ball's health, offseason additions

Let me summarize how I interpreted Artūras Karnišovas' message Monday about Lonzo Ball. 

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

Which probably means, for now, not to expect to see Ball playing for the Bulls until early 2023.

Which actually would be great if he is.

Because that would mean the arthroscopic debridement procedure Ball is scheduled to have Wednesday—my favorite new term, by the way, as I now call it a residential debridement when I clean the house; OK, if I decide to some day—was a success and he can return as part of the famed Bulls Five Horseman of the Apocalypse of last season’s first two months who (almost) conquered the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls announced last week that star point guard Ball, who first had meniscus surgery last January and wasn’t able to return, would miss four to six weeks and then be reevaluated. 

The Bulls' Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, Monday, at the annual pre-training camp media day immediately addressed the Big Baller in the room, Lonzo’s pending surgery.

And considering that doctors offered a timetable of six to eight weeks last January and Ball still could not run without pain this summer, it seemed clear there’s no clarity on this subject for anyone.

Karnišovas was honest about that.

“What we announced,” Karnišovas reiterated to a repeat question expressing the universal social media demand to know right now, “is he’s going to have surgery and hopefully that is going to resolve the problem and we’ll see if we can get him on the basketball court. Next four, six weeks we’re going to see how that worked.

“No, I’m not a doctor,” Karnišovas admitted when asked for details. “I’m just going to wait and see what the doctors are going to tell me. The timeline we announced is four to six weeks and we are going to reevaluate him. I do not know those answers (about recovery); depends on what the procedure is going to do to him to make him feel better.

“I’m always a positive guy,” Karnišovas reminded. “So we’re (confident we’re) going to see him on the floor. When? It’s just going to depend on how he feels during recovery.

Lonzo Ball will be re-evaluated in 4-to-6 weeks following a knee procedure scheduled to happen Wednesday in Los Angeles.

“We gave every opportunity (for Ball) to rehab and get back on the court without doing the surgery,” Karnišovas explained about the delays throughout the summer after Ball missed the first round playoff series loss to Milwaukee. “That was our thought process with the thought in mind of what’s best for the player. We’re at a crossroads now where we need to do something else, and that’s why we opted to do the procedure. We worked very closely with Lonzo and his representation, looked at every option possible and we got to this conclusion. We reported four to six weeks (and then) we’re going to reevaluate him and see where he’s at.”

It’s probably all the Bulls could do at this point for their point.

All the indications were Ball would be back by April for the playoffs since the January meniscus surgery was successful. But Ball apparently suffered pain whenever he ramped up his rehabilitation and training.

There was mention of a bone bruise while Ball had treatments and performed his rehabilitation back home in Los Angeles.

So the crossroads Karnišovas alluded to obviously was the start of the NBA season.

It was time to do something.

So they’re trying this.

It seems like a relatively minor cleanup procedure—Zach LaVine had a similar arthroscopic routine this summer and pronounced himself fit and fearless—though as we know minor surgery only is on someone else. Yes, for you it’s always major.

If it is simply these “loose particles” that have been causing the issue, then it would seem Ball could be back working out in November and then maybe return in December. Though given the time away from basketball, lack of training because the issue is with his knee and January was his second meniscus surgery, you’d expect the team would be patient and cautious with Ball. After all, why rush him back when this season as Karnišovas also said is more about advancing from where the Bulls ended last season?

Artūras Karnišovas and Billy Donovan kicked off Bulls Media Day press conferences Monday at the United Center.

“Obviously, last year the result we were not surprised we made the playoffs,” said Karnišovas. “A lot of people were surprised. Nor should we be surprised to make the playoffs this year. But what we want to see is obviously improvement. We have to do better than last year. When you get to the playoffs as always things happen, certain teams missing one or two key players. You can get by a round; those are the expectations.”

It will be vital to have Ball then.

After all, the Boston Celtics still were meandering around .500 last January while the Bulls were shocking the basketball world, and Boston went to the Finals and the Bulls went five games.

You know, it’s not how you start but how you finish, which was said by everyone from Moses, who was unable to enter the Promised Land, to the Bears Sunday against the Texans. 

And this season for the Bulls, long awaiting their trip to basketball’s promised land.

Because not only is the ball in their court for taking that next step, but making sure Ball is on the court to do so to help repeat that Miracle of Madison Street, circa December 2021.

Ball was a crucial part for averaging 13.4 points, more than five assists and rebounds per game and 42 percent three-point shooting. But it was also his pressure defense along with that of Alex Caruso’s in establishing the Bulls among the developing elite defensive units to merge with their high powered scorers. That two-way effect is not something easy to replace.

“I don’t think we saw our group with any kind of consistency (last season),” Karnišovas admitted. “We had 29 different starting lineups last year; we didn’t have Lonzo since January. So it was what, 53 games or whatever we played without him. So I think we need time to see this group play together longer to have any type of conclusion because we liked what we saw in the first 20 games; but I think this group needs a lot more time.

“The things we are going to focus on because it’s a lot of talent on this team is chemistry and team cohesion and relationships because we all understand talent wins games and relationships win championships,” said Karnišovas. “So we are trying to move on with winning in mind and everything we do in our building is thinking about winning. The approach (this summer) was basically adding more talent, adding more depth. We did retain 12 players from last year, added Andre Drummond and Goran (Dragić) and drafted Dalen (Terry), so we focused more on the depth and giving enough ammunition for Billy to operate and giving him enough guards and wings to be functional.

“Basically adding size, adding an elite rebounder,” said Karnišovas about Drummond. “We’ve seen how he can switch one through five; he definitely can help us with Vooch (Nikola Vučević) in front. With Goran it was more adding experience, a guy who still was hungry and chasing winning, leadership. I was happy we were able to get those two guys.”

And now just trying also to have a Ball.

Got a question for Sam?
Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.