One Report Suggests the Chicago Bulls Believe Lonzo Ball's Career Is Likely Over
The last we heard of Lonzo Ball, he was headed to the operating table for his third knee surgery in 14 months.
The Chicago Bulls point guard initially went down with a meniscus tear in January of 2022. He went on to miss the rest of the 2021-22 regular season despite the Bulls originally believing he would need just six-to-eight weeks to get back on the floor. As he tried to prepare for a comeback for the start of the 2022-23 regular season, the team announced he would have to undergo another procedure for lingering pain and discomfort when trying to ramp up his rehab.
Fast forward to March 16, and the Bulls confirmed that Ball would go through a cartilage transplant surgery and remain out indefinitely. Another taxing procedure, Ball’s recent path has made it hard to believe that he could return to his NBA playing career. The Bulls have said publically that they will continue to work toward helping him make a full recovery, but do they really believe that’s possible?
Well, according to 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein, they don’t.
Again, none of this should be particularly shocking information. Ball’s NBA future has hung in the balance for months now. But what this does suggest is that the guys upstairs at the Advocate Center know that a decision on how to proceed likely needs to be made sooner than later.
Indeed, if there is a team-wide acceptance that Ball will not be able to return, they’ll need to decide how to move forward with his contract. One way to get some immediate relief would be by applying for a Disabled Player Exception. If the Bulls were to request this extra cash, the NBA would review Ball’s situation and decide if the amount of time he is expected to miss this season is worthy of team compensation. The answer would surely be yes in this situation, and the Bulls would then receive half of his 2022-23 salary.
This would mean Chicago gets an exception for a little over $10 million. The problem with this, however, is that spending it would still count toward the luxury tax. And the Bulls could already be in a situation where they can’t spend their full mid-level exception due to the organization’s obvious desire to stay below the tax. Way more on the Bulls’ offseason finances here.
I guess I should also note that the Bulls would have to spend the entirety of the DPE on one player who is in the final year of a contract. In other words, the DPE basically allows you to add a player for that season and that season only.
The other path for the Bulls’ to pursue is the far more drastic one and – unfortunately – the potentially more useful one. If Arturas Karnisovas and Co. were ready to officially move on from Ball, they could look toward the career-ending injury clause.
The NBA would have to review Ball’s situation and determine that it’s highly unlikely he is ever able to make a return to the league. If they agree with Chicago, the Bulls would get the remainder of Ball’s salary off their books entirely. 670 The Score’s Cody Westerlund did a great thread on this potential avenue here.
The Bulls’ front office has yet to entertain either exception when asked about it in press conferences. But Bernstein’s words might indicate that some course of action will be taken in the coming months. It’s something we will surely keep an eye on.