The magical dream season that Chicago Bulls fans had longed for suddenly has the potential to turn nightmarish after a recent rash of injuries. Both Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine have missed the last few games for Chicago since last Friday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. LaVine could be back within the next week, but the news out of Chi-town isn’t as optimistic for Ball.
The news came down earlier today of Ball’s decision to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus. His timetable is set for about 6-8 weeks of recovery which means we might see Ball back on the court sometime in March. The timing of this injury couldn’t be worse for the Bulls, coupled with LaVine also missing time.
Though LaVine should be back with the team soon, Chicago is losing their hold on the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The team is just 5-5 over their last 10 games and now find themselves in a tie for first place in the conference with the Miami Heat. With Lonzo sidelined for an extended period, their recent downward trend might be prolonged.
It’ll be challenging over the next few weeks without Lonzo, but this Bulls team has shown perseverance in the face of adversity all year, seemingly. Remember the Covid-19 outbreak that forced 10 Bulls and two announcers into the NBA’s health and safety protocol? I thought that may have been the pulled Jenga piece to collapse the entire structure. But here we are a month later, with Chicago hanging onto first place by a thread. They are hanging on, though, which is the point.
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In Ball’s absence, others will need to step up and do more in his place. Much of that responsibility should fall on the shoulders of players like Cody White and Alex Caruso. White scored 16 points in 38 minutes, helping Chicago beat Cleveland Wednesday night. Caruso chipped in with nine points in his return to the lineup, after being out since Dec. 20 due to health and safety protocols plus a sprained foot. So, his return couldn’t have been timed any better, considering the Lonzo injury news.
Caruso’s calling card has been defense during his career, so his defensive production will be vital while Ball is recovering from surgery. Ball has an all-around game that is hard to supplement another player on this roster. By that, I mean he does so many things well and has improved in so many areas; it’s tough asking one guy to come in and replace Lonzo and expect the same results.
The way Ball has grown into controlling the pace and tempo of a game on both ends will be sorely missed. Hopefully, the Bulls can stay afloat at the top of the conference until Zo comes back. Ball really is becoming one of the next great traditional point guards in the game. A player who doesn’t need to score 20 plus points to significantly affect the outcome. I know LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are the headliners for these Bulls, but Ball has proven to be just as integral a part of this trio as the other two.
Hopefully, this fairytale season in Chicago gets back on track and stays there for the remainder of the year. But if this team is to make a deep postseason run, they’ll need Lonzo back on the floor as near to 100 percent as possible.