Billy Donovan, Bulls focused on supporting Lonzo Ball the person: 'He’s so consistent all the time with his spirit'


CHICAGO (670 The Score) – Bulls coach Billy Donovan put it simply when asked to react to guard Lonzo Ball heading for his third left knee surgery in a 14-month span.

“I’m saddened,” Donovan said Friday evening before the Bulls hosted the Timberwolves at the United Center.

Donovan’s comment came a day after the Bulls announced that Ball will undergo a cartilage transplant in his injured left knee, which has derailed his career and created worry that he may never be healthy enough to play again. The expectation is Ball will undergo the procedure early next week, Donovan said, though he didn’t believe an exact date had been set. Ball is expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2023-’24 season, according to reports, and he will face what Donovan called a “really, really long” rehab process.

Come this summer, the Bulls will have to do a better job searching for a solution to deal with the basketball problems created by Ball’s absence, which dates back to Jan. 14, 2022, the last time he took the floor. But on Friday, their focus was still on supporting Ball the person.

“From a team perspective, from a coaching standpoint, he’s a really good player and you love to have him out there,” Donovan said. “But to me, when you’re around him as much as we’ve been around him and the team has been around him, the fact that the game has been taken away from him and he can’t play, you just feel terrible for him. Because he loves the game, he loves playing. You see everything he has done since this has happened to try to get himself back on the court, and you always want to see a guy get rewarded by putting in the work that he’s put in to get back.”

Like the befuddled doctors working with Ball and fans yearning to see him play again, Donovan has no idea if Ball will ever be healthy enough to play again, though he did say he will remain hopeful because he has seen the work Ball has put in.

“This is just another step for him that he is trying to do everything in his power and in his control to get back on the court playing,” Donovan said. “The biggest thing I think we all can do is just try to support him and be there for him. Because he’s been through a lot, and he’s handled himself incredibly well for somebody who’s had really half of last year and all of this year taken away. And then the upcoming surgery, him being out indefinitely, what that looks like, he’s been through a lot mentally. Even though he comes in and he’s around the team for a period of time, there is a lot of time that he’s away from everybody and just having to come to grips of not playing is really, really hard probably for him to absorb. He handles himself incredibly well. He’s so consistent all the time with his spirit and his disposition and what he’s tried to do every step of the way to get back.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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