Lonzo Ball might be out for the upcoming season with his career in jeopardy, but he would like to make it clear he can still sit down.
The Chicago Bulls guard hasn't played in an NBA game since January 2022 and won't play again until at least 2024 due to recurring issues stemming from a left knee injury. He confirmed he would miss the 2023-24 season on Monday, leading to ESPN's "First Take" discussing the matter on Tuesday morning.
ESPN star opinion-haver Stephen A. Smith reacted in a very Stephen A. Smith fashion, expressing sympathy for Ball, talking about he didn't think Ball was as good as Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox when they were 2017 NBA Draft prospects, name-dropping Magic Johnson, lamenting the Bulls' situation and, crucially, mentioning he heard Ball still had trouble getting up from a sitting position:
"I am not a doctor. I am incredibly, incredibly sad for Lonzo. I knew that he wasn't De'Aaron Fox, the only fight that Magic Johnson and I ever got into because I begged him to draft De'Aaron Fox, because I saw what De'Aaron Fox did to him in the NCAA tournament, when he dropped 38 on him and stuff like that, but Lonzo has proven to be a really good NBA player, somebody who can run the point, plays both sides of the ball, can run an offense and it's really sad what happened to him.
"Those are doctors, something went wrong in terms of these procedures that he has had. I don't think he'll ever be the same, based off of what we're seeing and hearing and reading about. I've heard that it's even hard for him to get up from the sitting position. You can't play 50, 60, 70 games a year and the postseason. It's sad because with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, if they had a guy like Lonzo Ball healthy, the Chicago Bulls would be even better than what we've seen, so I'm really, really sad for him. I just hope that he ultimately is blessed enough to get his health back."
We include all of that context because of the tone of what happened next. Ball apparently saw Smith's off-hand report and responded as you would imagine many NBA players would: posting a video on social media of himself sitting up and down from a chair unassisted while directly berating Smith and his "sources."
In the video, Ball puts all of his weight on the left leg that has given him so much trouble seemingly to prove the injury issues aren't as bad as Smith made them out to be.
— Lonzo Ball (@ZO2_) August 22, 2023
"Stephen A., who are your sources, bro? Please tell me who your sources are. Come on, man. Come on, man, you gotta stop yapping. And I actually like you man. I don't even know you like that, but I like you. I'm coming back, man, come on."
Smith quickly responded, writing, "Happy to do so, Lonzo. Nice to know you’d finally like me to reach out. Not a problem. You know how to reach me, too. I’m here." He later added a podcast plug, because Stephen A. Smith is nothing if not a pro.
Regardless of how this is reported, it will be a while until we see Ball, who signed a four-year, $80 million deal with the Bulls in 2021, in a uniform again. His last NBA game was on Jan. 14, 2022 and he has since undergone three knee surgeries, the most recent one being a cartilage transplant in March. Chicago has already received a $10.2 million disabled player exception for his absence.
The Bulls and Ball have both said they're optimistic he will play again, but a layoff of at least 2 1/2 seasons will always be reason for pessimism.