Lauri Markkanen guards Matisse Tubull for the March 11. game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
When Lauri Markkanen survived the NBA deadline and stayed with the Chicago Bulls, it felt like a show of confidence from the coaching staff and front office.
He’s almost free and there have been a lot of trade rumors in recent weeks, if not months. Markkanen and the Bulls failed to agree on a contract extension in December.
He will finish the season in Chicago. But his role may change.
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A Change of initial position
National coach Billy Donovan announced another new hire Monday night against the Golden State Warriors, with Thaddeus Young as the power forward in place of Lori Markkanen.
The 23-year-old started all 24 games this season and played in 169 of his 170 matches.
But with Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis literally products of Chicago’s aggressive approach to trading, there were certainly changes in the bullpen rotation.
The result? An effective effort for Markkanen, but a fourth consecutive loss for his team. He scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in 22 minutes on the floor.
But the fourth-year forward struggled especially on defense and couldn’t keep up with Golden State Warriors wing defender Kelly Oubre Jr. who finished the night with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Lauri Markkanen said all the right things when speaking to reporters after Monday’s game (via NBC Sports). The 23-year-old had long considered his demotion to the second unit:
I’m a team player. I understand. And of course a little – what was it, my second game from the bench? So the pace of the game is a little different. But I’ll do what I can.
Head coach Billy Donovan was full of praise for his move to the second team, citing Markkanen’s versatility, especially on the offensive side:
I just thought Lauri was a guy who could play with any of those three guys, because of his marksmanship and skill. And I thought from an experience and physical standpoint, bring Ted into the game because Wooch is able to spread the floor, let these guys play with each other.
The minutes with Vucevic and Young were similar by far, so there’s no denying the coaching. But playing without those two or Zach LaVine on the floor was deadly for the Bulls.
Markkanen is determined to return the team to successful basketball and has confidence in the head coach’s decisions:
I know I can start, and that’s how I played. But I won’t do anything to hurt the team. I think we are all tired of losing and just want to get better. I mean, it hasn’t worked out so well for us, so we have to change something.
Chicago travels to Phoenix for the third night of a four-game road trip. They will meet the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back, rested and desperate for a win.
With only 27 games left, it’s likely that every game will count for playoff hopes.
It was a change of scenery for Lauri Markkanen, who came off the bench.
But he may have to get used to this show, probably as long as the rest of the season.
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