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Nikola Vucevic admits the lack of clarity regarding Lonzo Ball’s injury impacted the Chicago Bulls last season

Lonzo Ball’s arrival in the Windy City rejuvenated the Chicago Bulls and electrified fans. With the dynamic point guard leading the way, athletic wingmen Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan flanking him, and versatile big man Nikola Vucevic manning the paint, the Bulls rose to new heights, even leading the Eastern Conference at one point during the 2021-2022 season.

Sadly, Lonzo went down with a knee injury early in 2022, and the Bulls have not been the same ever since. Vooch recently spoke of the impact Ball’s absence has had on the Bulls, saying the lack of clarity about his injury and return kept the team guessing last season

After missing the rest of the 2021-2022 season and undergoing a couple of surgeries after the injury, Lonzo was slated to return at some point in the 2022-2023 season. However, his return date kept getting pushed back, and eventually, the Bulls decided to shut him down for the season.

“It was kind of like, ‘Oh, when he comes back, it’s going to be fixed.’ Early on, it was, ‘Oh, six weeks,’ then, ‘Now it’s eight weeks,’ and then, ‘January’ and ‘Maybe playoffs.’ For us, it was tricky, because we kept waiting for him,” Vucevic said.

With Ball officially ruled out for the 2023-2024 season, Vucevic said the team can focus on building chemistry with the new players they have in the hope of improving on their subpar showing last season.

“And now, at least, we know he’s not there. We’ve got some new teammates, some good signings that will help us. And so, now it’s on us as players to figure it out and find a way to have a better year,” Nikola added.

The difference-maker

Vucevic also recalled what it was like playing with Ball—a pass-first guard who relished setting his teammates up for easy baskets and defending opposing guards. A low-maintenance guard who didn’t care much for touches or the spotlight, Ball was the perfect guard for the Bulls before he got injured.

“There was a lot of excitement, and we felt that. We fed off of it. We really started going. And once you get in that rhythm, everything clicks. Lonzo was a big piece. The way the team was built, he was a pass-first point guard who was willing to involve everyone and getting everyone in the right spots helped a lot. And his defense, his shooting ability, we were playing much faster with him,” Vooch commented.