Bulls' Lonzo Ball reveals he underwent rare meniscus transplant procedure on left knee

Ball hasn't played for Chicago since January 2022

Lonzo Ball hasn't played in each of the past two seasons for the Chicago Bulls due to a left knee that has required three surgeries in two years.

In March 2023, Ball had a cartilage transplant procedure on the knee after a torn meniscus in January 2022. That surgery, in which damaged cartilage is repaired with cartilage cells from the patient's own body, is relatively rare.

However, Ball revealed on his podcast, "The WAE Show," that he had another very rare procedure performed during that 2023 surgery. He also had a meniscus transplant, receiving a new meniscus from a donor to replace what was initially torn in 2018.

"I tore it a couple more times to a point to where there was no more — basically, not much meniscus left, and bone-on-bone was rubbing," Ball explained. "So the cartilage was gone and the bone was messed up, so I had to get actually 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."

Ball, who will turn 27 in October, still doesn't know if he'll be able to play on that left knee. Yet earlier this month, he picked up his $21.4 million player option for next season.

That decision doesn't put the Bulls in a great position. If Ball continues to recover from his injury but doesn't get on the court, his contract takes up a big portion of Chicago's salary cap for 2024-25 while the team attempts to re-sign DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams. Trading Zach LaVine and the $138 million remaining on his contract (including a $49 million player option) could become an even higher priority under those circumstances.

However, if Ball isn't able to return and his knee injury is determined to be career ending, the Bulls would be able to subtract that $21.4 million figure from their salary cap and luxury tax.

Ball believes he'll play this season and estimates that his knee is about 70% recovered. He's able to run and go through basic drills without feeling the same discomfort that he had before.

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

He added that the plan is to be ready at the start of next season.

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