Why Lonzo Ball knee surgery is a worst-case scenario for the Bulls

Even if Ayo Dosunmu’s impressive season in which the sophomore guard added muscle and moxi translates to sophomore season…

Even if Alex Caruso’s attempt to strengthen his base results in health and long stretches of his sabotage defense…

Even if Goran Dragic continues to drink from the fountain of youth that fueled his brilliant game for Slovenia in the recently concluded EuroBasket…

Even if Coby White finds a regular role that results in his usually consistent play when given that opportunity…

Wednesday’s announcement from the Chicago Bulls that Lonzo Ball will have a second operation in eight months on his diseased left knee is a worst-case scenario.

why? Bulls have a lot of back area depth. Bypassing the storm until the ball returns is possible. The team said it will be reassessed within four to six weeks after the Sept. 28 procedure.

But even those most optimistic scenarios fail to address three important elements:

  • Both in standing up to the February trading deadline — where Paul was still expected to return from his first surgical procedure in January — and then by working on the sidelines at a free agency during the holiday period, management touted primary continuity as a key goal of its improvement.

Losing the ball for at least the first part of the season temporarily derails that goal. And given that he won’t be playing since January when he returns, the acclimatization process will be another step.

  • Nobody in the list can duplicate the skill set of the ball.

Not only did he fire a career-high 42.3 percent from a 3-point range with a hefty 7.4 attempts per game during his first season with the Bulls, an easy argument can be made that Ball represents the best two-way player on the roster.

With his ability to propel the ball up by either a pass or a dribble, the ball has the feel of an offensive game that goes beyond box points. In the words of DeMar DeRozan last season, he added “show off” to the bulls’ style.

Defensively, his attack point defense, especially when paired with Caruso, is off. It also allows the Bulls to more effectively put players like DeRozan and Nikola Vučevi into team defense principles that highlight their strengths and limit their weaknesses.

Paul expects to play well, averaging 1.8 shots in just 35 games last season, and he’s also adept at collecting distractions.

  • The ball’s injury history has become worrisome.

This is perhaps the most important element given that management aggressively pursued Paul and acquired him in a four-year, $80 million signing and trading deal. No one can question the talent assessment in predicting the fit of the ball. The Bulls were, quite simply, a different team last season – more exciting, more competitive – when I played ball.

But availability is a skill. The ball has never been played in more than 63 games in one season.

This is also Paul’s third procedure on this knee, two of which have treated meniscus tears. In the official team statement, the Bulls said the ball “will undergo an endoscopic debridement process.” This is basically a cleaning process that treats cartilage fragments and pieces of tissue that can cause discomfort.

When Paul underwent his procedure in January to treat a meniscus tear, the Bulls set a six-to-eight-week schedule for his return. However, whenever he tried to ramp up his activity, he felt uncomfortable. The team eventually shut it down, and Paul said in his end-of-season press conference in April that he pledged to see specialists and rehabilitate the attack to be ready to play 82 games.

Instead, although he showed periods of progress during the vacation period, he eventually continued to experience discomfort during the times he tried to increase activity. A source said Paul even tried changing the way he walked to tackle the problem. As recently as mid-August, there was optimism that Ball would still be ready for boot camp and that strength exercises designed to address the problem would work.

Instead, the ball goes to another action. And the Bulls, who know all about waiting for influential point guards to return from injury, will start the 2022-23 season without the essential continuity the franchise wanted.

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