'I literally can't run or jump': Ball hopes knee mystery can be solved with second surgery

The outlook on Lonzo Ball's ailing left knee might be more discouraging than originally thought, if that's even possible.

While his Bulls teammates were launching the first official practice of training camp, Ball spoke to reporters via Zoom call from Los Angeles, where he's planning to have an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee Wednesday. It will be the second this year and third of his NBA career.

"Yeah, I literally can't run or jump," Ball said. "I'm like 30-to-60 degrees (range of motion) when my knee's bent, so I have no force and I can't catch myself. Until I can do those things, I can't play."

Ball said doctors aren't sure what's wrong and will try to diagnose and fix the problem in surgery.

"The plan this whole summer was to stay out of the surgery, but at this point this is all that's left," he said. "So it's something that has to be done. I know I'm going in with the best doctors, so I've got 100% confidence in them and I think I'm going to be back to normal."

When Ball had surgery in late January, the Bulls were hoping he'd be back to normal by the end of March, giving him time to ramp up and be ready to make his first appearance in the NBA playoffs.

The team eventually gave up on the idea he could return for the playoffs, but figured rest and recovery over the summer would solve any issues.

"There was a point where we would warm up and stuff, and I would go through certain days and it would be fine," Ball said. "Then whenever I got to real basketball activities, I just couldn't do it."

On Tuesday, Ball said the knee pain isn't confined to the basketball court. It's been constant.

"No, it's every day. Going upstairs and stuff, it's still painful," he said. "It's something that I've never dealt with, and even the doctors are a little surprised about it a little bit. We're all working together to figure this thing out."

In the spring, Ball's father Lavar did an interview where he suggested the Bulls pushed Lonzo too hard in his rehab, had him running too soon in an effort to return before the end of the season. Lavar felt that was why the knee was slow to respond.

Lonzo had a similar issue with his left knee after his rookie season with the Lakers in 2018 and missed the start of the following season. During five years in the NBA, Ball has averaged just 50 games played. Last season was a career-low at 35.

"I'm not going to say we did (rush it) because I've torn my meniscus before and I came back and was fine," Ball said. "Like I said, I thought I was for sure going to be back for the playoffs. I think we all thought that was going to be the case.

"But things happen, and something weird obviously happened. I've never felt pain like this or was able to ramp up a little bit but never fully, so definitely a unique situation. We all came to the conclusion that it's time for surgery."

Ball said Bulls doctors and training staff have been with him through most every step this summer. After the surgery, he plans to return to Chicago to be around his teammates while he continues rehab.

If Ball is ready to play a few months into the regular season and feels good the rest of the way, this shouldn't be a huge problem for the Bulls. But there's no way of knowing when or if he'll feel healthy again.

Ball is entering the second year of a four-year, $80-million contract he received during last summer's sign-and-trade deal with New Orleans.

In his absence, the Bulls figure to split the point guard duties between Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and veteran newcomer Goran Dragic.

During Monday's media day, Zach LaVine said Dosunmu looked bigger and stronger heading into his second pro season.

"We've got great guards behind (Ball) so I'm not really worried too much about who's going to play the position," Caruso said. "Obviously we've got great options (in) me, Ayo, Goran. Guys that I think are three different players that bring three different elements to the position I think can benefit the team."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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