Chicago Sun-Times

Ball has surgery, must defy the odds


PHILADELPH­IA — Coach Billy Donovan is betting on Lonzo Ball.

But it’s a long shot. Donovan admitted that Ball is facing an “uphill battle.’’

He announced that Ball had the third surgery — a cartilage transplant — on his left knee in the last 14 months Monday. Only a few pro basketball players have undergone such a procedure, and none has made it back to the NBA.

“That’s right,’’ Donovan said. “I don’t remember if I was in high school or college — and Bernard King blew out his ACL [in 1985], and no one had ever come back from that. You’re just hopeful that maybe [Ball] can be the first. I know he’s going to work really hard. I know that they felt the surgery went well. But I do agree that there’s nothing that’s out there that says, ‘Hey, here’s how guys have come back and been able to respond to this.’

“But I know that Lonzo, with all the informatio­n he was able to gather just from different sets of doctors, made the decision that he felt gave him the best chance to get back on the court, and we all understand that’s going to be an uphill battle for him. But I know that he’s going to do everything possible in his rehab to get himself back on the court.’’

That’s the human side of Ball’s saga.

The Bulls, however, have to come to terms with the basketball side of the injury and the huge setback it has been for the organizati­on.

Donovan said he has not been brought into any such discussion­s, but he knows they have been going on between the front office and ownership.

His expectatio­n is he would be included once the season is over to discuss the different scenarios ahead.

Ball hasn’t played since Jan. 14, 2022, so the Bulls have had time to adjust during his absence. But when this core was assembled, Ball

was a key piece.

“I’m sure the front office and ownership will talk at the end of the year about that,’’ Donovan said.

“He certainly has a long road to recovery and a long road to get himself to a place where he can get himself back on the court and playing again, but I am hopeful that with his work ethic, his commitment and drive and just how eager he is to play, that’s he’s going to exhaust every opportunit­y to do that.

“My feeling would be next year’s training camp, you have to go in there with him not being available. You have to prepare like that. But I just don’t know what the length of time will be for him to get back on the court and playing again.’’

Addition by subtractio­n

Coach Doc Rivers of the 76ers is of the opinion that Joel Embiid should be the league MVP this season, but he doesn’t appreciate the way the race is being handled in the media and the sports-talk circuit.

“Giannis [Antetokoun­mpo], Jayson Tatum ,[ Nikola Jokic], all of them are great,’’ Rivers said. “We don’t need to push one down to elevate another guy. Joel, in my opinion, is the best of that. I don’t think anyone needs me to campaign for him.

“I don’t know what’s going that to validate one, you have to push down the other guy.

‘‘We have to stop this stuff that’s going on. I hear it, and I don’t like it.’’

 ?? NAM Y. HUH/AP ?? Bulls coach Billy Donovan (right) acknowledg­ed that guard Lonzo Ball is facing an uphill battle and ‘‘certainly has a long road to recovery.’’
NAM Y. HUH/AP Bulls coach Billy Donovan (right) acknowledg­ed that guard Lonzo Ball is facing an uphill battle and ‘‘certainly has a long road to recovery.’’

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