Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball staying optimistic, talks rehab update

Lonzo Ball keeps fighting, so perhaps it was appropriate Monday that he chatted with media in Paris on the basketball court of the Palais des sports Marcel-Cerdan following a light Bulls workout he mostly monitored. The athletic facility just northwest of central Paris is named for the famed French boxer who won the world middleweight title from Gary’s legendary Tony Zale.

In some respects, Ball’s battle is just as piercing and frustrating as Zale’s body shots, which opponents described as being hit with a hot fireplace poker. Ball, too, burns, but to get back on the basketball court. He’s confident, if not certain about when.

Obviously I want to play; that’s the goal. Once I feel I’m comfortable enough playing, whether it’s 70, 80, 90, 100 percent then I’ll be out there.

Lonzo Ball

“I really have no timetable,” Ball said in his first comments since posting recent videos of dunking a basketball and running on a treadmill. “Just going day-by-day, try and do more every week, loading up the workload. I’m finally moving around again, so that’s nice. But I don’t really have a timetable for anything. I would love to play. I would never count that out. It’s a long year. I feel like we’re hitting our stride right now, so hopefully I can keep getting better and the team will keep getting better and we can meet up."

“I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up,” Ball said. “Obviously I want to play; that’s the goal. Once I feel I’m comfortable enough playing, whether it’s 70, 80, 90, 100 percent then I’ll be out there.’’

It was just this past weekend that Ball didn’t exactly celebrate an anniversary, the last game he played for the Bulls with the team threatening the top of the Eastern Conference. The 6-6 guard who had helped transform the Bulls offense with his pace, passing and precision shooting suffered a knee injury that was expected to keep him out up to two months. He never was able to return last season, and earlier this season had another knee procedure. He and the Bulls have reported incremental progress, though without specifying a date when Ball could or will return.

With now three months remaining in the regular season, the question is not only when he might return to basketball activities but how long it will take to play after being out more than a year. Ball’s social media posts were a hopeful sign, if also indeterminate. His absence has been obvious the way the Bulls have slipped under .500 in the games he’s missed since the end of last January.

Lonzo Ball speaks to media

“Just that the process was starting,” Ball said about his media posts. “To be able to do something, getting back on the floor a little bit, starting to run on the treadmill. Obviously, there’s still some discomfort and some hitching in there, but it’s the process of getting everything started. That was my first time running in pretty much a year. So just for me it was positive just to get on a treadmill and do something. It’s not my normal gait. Obviously, I’ve got to work through that. There’s going to be pain there because of the surgeries and I’m getting back in and moving things. But I’m just trying to stay positive and move forward.’’

Ball could easily have shut down and committed to next season, which he may have to do, anyway. But it’s been obvious with his time around his teammates, desire to join them here and regular time in the Advocate Center that he is anxious to try anything he can to play this season.

“It’s tough (mentally),” Ball acknowledged. “But I’ve got a lot of good people around me helping me out every day. It’s just about getting back on the court. I can’t focus on the negative. I think AK (Arturas Karnisovas) and Marc (Eversey) had a good idea of what they wanted the team to look like and that’s why they brought me in to do what I was supposed to do. Obviously, I’m out right now, and that’s the missing piece of the team. But like I said, it’s a long year, we’re beating the really good teams this year, and we’ve just got to keep putting it together each day.

“It’s the longest I’ve ever been out,” Ball noted. “I’ve been playing basketball my whole life. So for me just watching the guys every night and watching them go on planes and come back and stuff, and I’m always just watching practice, I feel like I’ve just got to stay positive and do what I can to get on the court.

“I don’t have any concern (about a career threatening situation),” Ball said. “I just think it’s time consuming. This is my third surgery; I had two last year. It’s about building that strength back up and the confidence in myself. I’m only 25, so I’m not too worried about it. I know how to play basketball, so it’s really just about me being comfortable enough to get out there and feel safe. And once I get back to that point I’ll be back in the gym.’’

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