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PARIS — Two days after the one-year anniversary of Lonzo Ball’s last NBA game, Marcel-Cerdan exited the stadium after the Chicago Bulls took a short practice straight from the airport on Monday. .

Unfortunately for Ball and the Bulls, the influential point guard did so with little to no reporters.

Patiently answering a question about the seemingly never-ending rehabilitation process that still has no timetable for his return, Ball emphasized that he remains mentally strong after two surgeries on his left knee and that he still hopes to return this season.

But Ball also acknowledged given that he still needs to be cleared to run or cut at full speed every day and needs significant expansion time, if he gets that clearance without a problem, time is running out.

“I mean, of course, yeah, everything is on schedule,” Ball said when asked about the possibility of a timeout. “But I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up.

“I would like to play. I would never consider it. It’s been a long year, I feel like we’re in our stride now. So hopefully I can keep getting better, the team will keep getting better and we can meet.”

Ball posted videos of himself getting down on one leg and running on a treadmill last Friday, the day before the one-year anniversary of his disappearance. Ball underwent surgery in late January 2022 to repair a torn meniscus and underwent arthroscopic debridement in late September just before training camp.

When asked why he published the videos on social networks, Ball had a ready answer.

“That process was just beginning. To be able to do something, stand back a little on the floor, start running on the treadmill,” he said. “Obviously there’s still some anxiety and some friction. But that’s the process of starting it all.

“I was nominated for the first time in almost a year. So it was just positive for me to just get on the treadmill and do something. That’s not my usual gait. Obviously I have to work through it. There will be pain from the surgeries and I go back in and move things around. But I’m just trying to stay positive and move forward.”

Sources said the Bulls have some insurance — an amount not disclosed by those sources — in his four-year, $80 million contract in the event of the drastic scenario of him not playing again. Ball said he has “no worries” about that hypothetical outcome.

“I just think it’s time-consuming,” Ball said. “This is my third operation, I had two last year. It’s about regaining that strength and building confidence in myself. I’m only 25, so I’m not too worried about (the career-ending injury).”

Ball said the mental component of being away for so long has been trying, but that he’s surrounded by good people during that time.

“I can’t focus on the negative right now,” he said. “I mean, that’s the longest I’ve ever been out. I’ve played basketball my whole life, so it’s a lot for me, especially just watching the guys every night and their planes and coming back and stuff. And I always just follow the practice, I feel like. I just have to stay positive and do what I can to get on the court.”

That’s where the Bulls want him, of course. They went 21-14 in his first injury-free games since signing that contract and being traded by the Pelicans. Ball’s two-way ability, 3-point shooting, go-ahead passes, and selfless, fun-loving style strained the team at times.

“It’s a team sport. I think (executive vice president) AK (Arturas Karnisovas) and (general manager) Mark (Eversley) had a good idea of ​​what the team looked like, and that’s why they brought me in to do what I needed to do. would do

“Obviously I’m out now and that’s the missing piece of the team. But like I said, it’s been a long year, we’ve been beating some really good teams this year, and we’ve just got to keep picking it up every day.”

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