The Bulls had "pulled back" Ball's rehab process for the past 10 days, shutting him down from sprinting when his knee did not respond to the recovery program following arthroscopic knee surgery in January. The team is ready to begin increasing Ball's activity again, but coach Billy Donovan acknowledged the process will be gradual.
"With the amount of time that he had off to let things calm down, we're not going to go 0-to-60," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said before Thursday's game against the LA Clippers.
Ball, who has not played since Jan. 14, does not have a lot of time left to return to the court again this season. Following Thursday's game, there are 10 days remaining in the regular season and the Bulls have five games left.
Donovan did not rule out the possibility of Ball's returning to play in the playoffs without playing in a regular-season game, but he emphasized Ball's health will determine his status.
However, despite the tight timeline, Donovan said no one has ruled Ball out for the season or told the team there is not enough time for him to ramp up to play again. If he responds to the treatment program and can begin running again soon, the team is optimistic he could be ready to return soon.
"[Ball's] the driver behind a lot of this, he really wants to play," Donovan said. "He wants to get back to playing. Obviously he's also going to be smart in terms of how he's feeling. He's going to be realistic and the doctors are going to put their heads together. Certainly every day that goes by and time that passes by, we're moving closer and closer 'til the end of the season."
The Bulls could use a boost from Ball at both ends of the floor.
In 35 games, he is averaging 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting 42.3% from 3 on 7.4 attempts per game. Since Ball's injury, the Bulls are 18th in offensive efficiency and 24th in defensive efficiency, per NBA.com.
"We'd have to see some significant progress that he's made physically so that we feel good he can go in there and play and contribute and help," Donovan said. "But I haven't gotten anything [from team doctors] close to shutting him down or anything like that."