Artūras Karnišovas shares thoughts on Lonzo Ball’s future – NBC Sports Chicago

After a second straight play-in loss to the Heat — marking the second straight year the Bulls have failed to make the playoffs — Artūras Karnišovas admitted that change is coming for the organization.

“I’m going to look at the totality of the group. This group has not worked,” Karnišovas said at the Lawyers Center on Saturday. “There are a lot of great things in certain individual players and a lot of young boys who have taken a step forward and that is positive. But as a whole as a group it didn’t work. So I’ll have to find these answers in the offseason.

MORE: Bulls’ Artūras Karnišovas promises to make changes

Part of that equation is their sidelined point guard, Lonzo Ball, who continues to work back from three separate knee surgeries that have kept him off the floor since January 2022. Recently, Ball’s status has improved, uninterrupted with clearance to cut, sprint and take off. increase physical activity.

On the radio with 670 The Score during the first week of April, Ball’s father, LaVar, predicted his son has four to five months before he can play 5-on-5 basketball with full contact. At this point, Lonzo still has a number of hurdles to overcome.

A four-month timeline according to LaVar’s projection puts Lonzo close to returning around August; a return closer to five months would put him in early September. With the 2024 NBA Draft kicking off on June 27 and NBA free agency opening three days afterward, Ball’ creates a difficult timeline for the Bulls to determine his place during a turning point in the organization.

The only certainty in Ball’s situation? He will undoubtedly pick up his player option for the 2024-2025 season, worth $21.3 million. If Ball is unable to return this season and his injury is deemed career-ending by an independent physician, the Bulls could gain $21 million in salary cap space.

From a human perspective, everyone at the United Center Ball is supportive. His impending return would be a benchmark in the history of sports medicine, as seemingly zero athletes have ever returned from an injury of his level.

Still, the Bulls are building a team; one that Karnišovas said on Wednesday needs to change. How will the Bulls handle Ball’s situation?

“We’ll just wait and see his progression over the next few months,” Karnisovas said. “He’s making good progress. Everything looks good, with no setbacks. So we’ll see where he stands in a few months.”

Everyone wants to see Ball get back on the floor. He’s a key cog missing from a Bulls team that doesn’t need a tantalizing facilitator, three-point shooter and elite perimeter defender besides Alex Caruso. But his situation puts the Bulls in a difficult position.

The backcourt is filling up with Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu who are coming off seasons where they both made big strides in their young careers. And the impending futures of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams make it more difficult for the Bulls’ front office to fully navigate their cap situation.

But the Bulls have already supported Ball’s recovery over the past 2.5 seasons he was sidelined. There’s no reason for them to cut their point guard now, especially with his rehab on an upward trajectory.

“He’s improving,” Karnisovas said of Ball. “We’ll see where he is in the next few months. There are no setbacks, so we’ll see where he is on the court and basketball-wise. So we’ll find out.”

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