Lonzo Ball's progress has "been really slow," Billy Donovan gives rehab update

How’s that Mariah Carey holiday song go? 

All I want for Christmas is you, Lonzo.

That might not be the precise lyrics, but it could be what the Bulls are wishing for this holiday season. Though it certainly doesn’t seem likely, and maybe not even for Neil Diamond’s birthday on January 24.

Sweet Lonzo Ball, so good, so good, so good.

“It’s been really slow; I’m just being honest,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said in the latest non-update on the progress of injured Bulls point guard, Lonzo Ball. Ball has been out since surgery last January, and then had another surgery for additional corrections before this season began. It seemed clear Donovan didn’t have any definitive update, which likely would come from Bulls management. Donovan was asked about Ball in his regular media session prior to Wednesday’s game with the Phoenix Suns.

“I think he’s working through more and more, but it’s not like I can give you any report (that), ‘Hey, he’s running, he’s cutting, he’s jumping, he’s doing individual skill work, the next step is we’ve got to get him some contact.’ 

“To be honest with you we’re not even close to that,” Donovan admitted. “I think him working through the pain he was experiencing before, there has been improvement in that area. But they’re also trying to continue to build up strength because of the lack of time he’s had training. They’re (training staff) constantly all hands on deck. Everyone is evaluating. There’s a lot of people that are involved in trying to help him.’’

“They’re all talking constantly,” Donovan said. “There’s doctors in LA, there’s our doctors here in Chicago, our medical staff that’s part of the Bulls. I think the biggest thing is getting him into these movements and into these patterns of movement where he’s just totally pain free. It’s better and it’s gotten better, but is he clearly without any pain? No. He still has pain. I just don’t have any timetable of when he could be back.’’

But Donovan reiterated that Ball continues to believe he will return this season. The hope, according to some reports, has been he might be able to start playing some in January.

“He was in that mindset (of quickly returning) last year when the injury happened,” Donovan said. “I just think that’s who he is. He has his mind, his heart, everything set on getting himself back this year. But there’s no timetable. That’s where he’s at mentally. That’s what he’s working towards. I have no timetable for it. But there’s also a piece to a guy being out and getting some games under his belt to getting back to playing. So those will be decisions I think that will be within the front office and the medical staff and his representation and how he’s feeling.

“There’s a lot of people that have tried to wrap their head around this in terms of trying to figure it out,” said Donovan. “That’s the issue: How do you strengthen things around his glutes, hamstrings, quads, all those muscles. How do you get them strong enough where none of that pain is there? When he was coming out of surgery, a big part of it was they had to let the incision heal before he could start doing something. So he is better after the surgery. I will say that. But is he completely pain free? No, and that’s what they’re working towards. Or at least if he does have some pain, he’s able to play through some of it, work through some of it. All these guys are dealing with pain as the season goes on in some form of it, but for him it’s the pain that has enabled him to not getting back to playing.’’

Ball has remained back in Chicago for treatments and rehabilitation exercises while the team, for now, is on a Western Conference trip through this weekend.

“It’s important that he’s around the team and he is when we’re at home games, shootarounds, those types of things,” said Donovan. “But the most important thing is his health and trying to get him back. So the resources back in Chicago would be better than on the road, and there’s people back there working with him. It’s a much better place for him to try and continue working on trying to get healthy.’’

Donovan also reiterated he’s heard no talk of Ball sitting out an extended time.

“I haven’t been a part of any discussions like that at all,” Donovan said. “It’s been more about how to get him back on the floor to where he’s playing. We haven’t gotten that far. It’s been more like helping to get him better. I feel bad for him because I feel like he’s worked hard to try and get back. He’s a young guy, he’s a really good player, and you hate to see a guy – I guess it’s another month or so coming up on a year (since the first surgery)? I hurt for him because he’s a great guy, he loves playing, and when something like that is taken away from a guy you feel bad for him.’’

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