Bulls' Ball reveals he received rare meniscus transplant from donor

May 24, 2024, 6:59 PM

Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, who has not played in an NBA game since January 2022, spoke Friday of his way back from knee issues over the past two years and said part of the recovery involved undergoing a meniscus transplant from a donor.

Speaking on his podcast, " The WAE Show," Ball said his issues dated to the first time he tore his meniscus in 2018, when he was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. After suffering recurring injuries to his left knee, Ball said he eventually had no more cartilage left in it and needed a transplant meniscus procedure performed last year. It was done at the same time he had a cartilage transplant performed in the same knee.

"There was no more meniscus left and bone on bone was rubbing," Ball said. "The cartilage was gone and the bone was messed up, so I had to get a new meniscus from a donor. I had to get a bone allograft and I had to get some new cartilage put in as well."

After spending more than a year seeing specialists trying to properly identify the issue in his knee, Ball underwent cartilage transplant surgery in March 2023, a third surgery on his left knee in the span of a year. Ball and the Bulls said at the time they believed this surgery would give Ball, 26, the best chance to return to the court again and ruled him out of this most recent season in June.

"We were trying to figure out what the problem was so that was a wasted year," Ball said on the podcast.

Although Ball missed the entire 2023-24 season, he has been able to progress in his rehab without feeling the same discomfort he had in the past doing basic drills such as running. Earlier this month, he posted a video to his social media accounts of him dunking a basketball, and he estimated on a previous episode of the podcast that his knee is at about 70%.

"Good enough to play, but it could still get better I feel like," Ball said. "Still got a long summer ahead of me, but definitely looking forward to the future.

Ball exercised his player option earlier this month for the final season of a four-year, $80 million contract as part of a sign-and-trade from New Orleans to Chicago in the summer of 2021. He has played only 35 games for the Bulls since, but he said he is optimistic that he will be ready to play at the start of the 2024-25 season.

"I firmly believe that," Ball said. "That's the plan that I'm on and I haven't had any setbacks. I expect to play the first game."

The Bulls have had guarded hope for Ball's return, but he still has a few hurdles too clear. He has not participated in 5-on-5 scrimmages or played with any physical contact. The Bulls are hopeful he will be able to do some team activities later in the offseason before accessing his status for 2024-25.

"We're just going to wait and see his progression next couple months," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said at his end of season news conference in April. "He's progressing well. Everything is looking with no setbacks, so we'll see where he's at in a couple months."