The Lonzo Ball injury from back in January has impacted his Chicago Bulls big time recently.
Ball has not played since January 14 after undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee.
The former No. 2 pick of the Los Angeles Lakers had been off to a geat start in his first season as a member of the Bulls, helping them ascend the standings in the Eastern Conference in the process.
Unfortunately, it’s now looking more and more like Ball will not return this season.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported ahead of Chicago’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks that Ball is expected to be shut down for the remainder of the season.
Bulls head coach Billy Donovan talked about this ahead of the game and didn’t seem too optimistic.
“I would imagine in the next day or two we’ll probably have a little bit more once everybody sits down and talks. It’s disappointing from the standpoint you were hoping that the time he had off would help maybe propel him going forward to do a little bit more. But that certainly hasn’t been the case.”Chicago Bulls’ Billy Donovan on Lonzo Ball injury, via ESPN’s Jamal Collier
Prior to Tuesday’s outing, Ball had missed the previous 39 games due to injury. The hope had always been that he’d be able to return late in the regular season or in the playoffs. Now that this is unlikely to be the case, let’s look at the impact on Chicago’s hopes for a deep playoff run.
Despite Lonzo Ball injury, Chicago Bulls clinch playoff spot
There’s some good news that came out of the Windy City on Tuesday. By virtue of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss to the Orlando Magic, Chicago clinched a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference. This means that the team will be able to avoid the play-in tournament.
With Zach LaVine (knee) hobbled, this is no small thing for Billy Donovan’s squad.
Without LaVine in the mix Tuesday, Chicago was blown out at home by Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors earned a hard-fought win over the Atlanta Hawks.
What does this mean? Now 45-34 on the season, Chicago finds itself one game behind Toronto for the fifth seed back east. The team is also a mere 6-13 in its past 19 games. That’s not a way a team wants to head into the postseason.
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Ayo Dosunmu under the microscope following Lonzo Ball injury news
Ever since taking over for Ball in Chicago’s starting lineup, this rookie second-round pick from Illinois has played pretty well. In fact, he remains one of our top-10 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates.
Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Dosunmu had started in 35 of his previous 37 appearances — averaging 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists on 52% shooting.
- Lonzo Ball stats (2021-22): 13.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, 42% three-point
Outside of these basic stats, Ball had proven himself to be among the best perimeter defenders in the game. Dosunmu just isn’t at that level.
Now that they have clinched a playoff spot, the Bulls will either go up against Boston, Philadelphia or Milwaukee in the first round. This means matchups against veteran point guards such as Marcus Smart, James Harden or Jrue Holiday. Yeah, Dosunmu is going to be under a lot of pressure.
DeMar DeRozan takes center stage
In the midst of the best season of his career, DeRozan just dropped 40 points in Tuesday’s loss to the Bucks. He now has the most 30-point games for a Bulls player in a season since Michael Jordan. That’s just how good DeRozan has been since coming over from the San Antonio Spurs in a sign-and-trade last summer.
Now that the Lonzo Ball injury news has been confirmed, the onus is going to be on DeRozan to continue dominating. It’s something we saw Tuesday with him doing what he could to keep Chicago close.
Sure Chicago is hoping LaVine will be 100% come playoff time. Nikola Vučević remains a consistent force in the frontcourt. Even then, Chicago can’t hope for a deep run in the Eastern Conference Playoffs without DeRozan putting up Jordan-like scoring numbers.