Kris Dunn

Lauri Markkanen to compete in Taco Bell Skills Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen to compete in Taco Bell Skills Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend

Although they have no players playing in the NBA All-Star Game, the Bulls will be well-represented during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

Thursday, the NBA announced that Bulls' rookie Lauri Markkanen will compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 17. Markkanen is one of eight NBA players that will participate in the event.

The skills challenge is one of two events Markkanen will participate in during All-Star Weekend. He will also play for the World Team in the Kickstart Rising Stars game on Friday, Feb. 16, facing off against teammate Kris Dunn. Dunn, who has missed six straight games with a concussion, will compete for the U.S. Team if healthy.

Markkanen becomes the first Bulls player to compete in the skills challenge since Derrick Rose in 2011. Ironically, Rose competed in the event in 2009 as a rookie, just like Markkanen will do this year.

Rose won in 2009 and also participated in the event in 2010 and 2011. Jimmy Butler was scheduled to participate in 2015, though he dropped out due to a shoulder strain.

Markkanen is averaging 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in 47 games this season.

 

Bulls will be represented during All-Star Weekend as Dunn, Markkanen named Rising Stars

Bulls will be represented during All-Star Weekend as Dunn, Markkanen named Rising Stars

PHILADELPHIA—One measure of the Bulls’ evaluation of young players was validated Wednesday evening, as Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn were selected to the 2018 Kickstart Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles next month.

Markkanen has been one of the league’s most impressive rookies while Dunn has undergone a dramatic transformation of sorts after a rocky rookie season. Considering both were acquired in the Jimmy Butler deal on draft night, the Bulls front office likely takes a measure of pride in the selections. Dunn is still out with a concussion he suffered a week ago against Golden State and will likely be out for Friday’s game against the Lakers.

Markkanen will play for the World Team, with the likes of international-born Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, both from the Philadelphia 76ers. Dunn will play for the U.S. Team in this new format that pits first and second year international players against players born in the United States.

Dunn joins the likes of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell in the showcase game, as the two teammates will be on opposite ends for the first time.

It’ll be the first time the Bulls have two players in the showcase since 2010, when Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson were first and second year players.

Although Markkanen would be drafted higher than 7th if it were re-done today, he didn’t believe his 15.5 points and 7.7 rebounds were good enough to make the All-Star Weekend showcase.

Either he’s display humility or being a bit delusional about where he ranked coming in.

“It's a big honor,” Markkanen said. “I didn't even think it was possible. Like two weeks ago, I thought maybe I can be part of my first All-Star Weekend. It means a lot. Maybe I can guard Kris.”

Dunn’s selection was far more surprising considering his rookie year in Minnesota that had many writing him off. Since becoming a starter, Dunn is averaging 14.6 points and 7.0 assists, cementing himself at point guard and as a viable piece moving forward to the Bulls’ rebuild.

“After being a guy that was coming off the bench, getting himself back into the starting lineup and really evolving into a closer of this team, so it’s great for both,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I’m really excited for both of those guys. It will be a great weekend.”

In the spirit of All-Star Weekend, Markkanen isn’t taking his selection lightly, saying “we’re going for the win.” Considering how the Bulls have been off the national radar this season, it’ll be a chance for him to introduce himself to the big stage.

“I think with Lauri the true fan has a true appreciation for everything he does on the basketball floor,” Hoiberg said. “I think he’s one of the more versatile players, especially as a 7-footer. A guy that can score from all over the floor. You look at that game that he had in the Garden – in the world’s most famous arena he just goes out and has eight threes, an absolute highlight reel dunk.”

Dunking Markkanen, dead-legged LaVine, no Dunn and tanking the right way

Dunking Markkanen, dead-legged LaVine, no Dunn and tanking the right way

ATLANTA — Here are the observations from the Bulls’ 113-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena Saturday afternoon.

Not a shooter, but a scorer: The Atlanta Hawks’ gameplan was clear on Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen: Do anything but let him shoot.

They succeeded at that objective but in the words of Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, they “won the battle but lost the war” as Markkanen missed all four of his 3-pointers and didn’t hit a jump shot.

But he scored 19 including six dunks—after coming in with 28 dunks in the first 42 games. The Hawks kept putting smaller players on him after switching pick and rolls and the Bulls smartly and patiently went to Markkanen inside after ball movement.

Shooting over 6-foot-10 guys who aren’t as agile is certainly satisfying for the rookie but as Markkanen said, “dunking is fun.”

“Trying to be a complete player,” Markkanen said. “If that was their game plan, I don’t know. I can do much more than shoot. I missed how many three’s today? But that wasn’t going for me tonight so I went to something else.”

Clearly while Markkanen’s game is growing the easiest thing for opposing teams to do is to see how he’ll perform against smaller players, but as the season has gone on he’s shown more comfort with his back to the basket and being two passes away, ready to step into the lane when defenses collapse.

“I know I can’t just shoot threes, I gotta get to the rim,” Markkanen said. “Eventually it’ll open more space for 3-pointers and stuff like that. Trying to mix it up.”

Dead legs or settling in for Zach LaVine: It was tailor made for Zach LaVine to get his second slam of the season, getting the ball on a breakaway with only Taurean Prince trailing him.

Whether LaVine heard footsteps or knew he didn’t have the full lift to get there, Prince caught up with him to foul from behind as LaVine tripped before liftoff, missing a layup.

It was indicative of his early showing, as the adrenaline from the first two games has worn off and LaVine is having to get used to his body’s limitations in the moment—especially as his minute restriction was raised to 24 minutes for the next three games before he’ll be re-evaluated again.

He was 0-for-4 in the first half before catching a bit of a rhythm in the second half, finishing two-for-nine with eight points in 18 minutes, adding nine rebounds. His explosion isn’t there yet, going to the rim. And his legs on his jumper feels a little flat, too.

“I don’t have all of it (legs),” LaVine said. “A couple possessions down the floor, I get tired. Get fouled and have to walk it off. I have to get the game legs back and I can’t practice it, it comes with playing.”

In two months, one would think he’ll finish that with little issues but he admitted fatigue caught up with him more than anything.

“My first two (games) I was extremely excited, energized,” LaVine said. “I just feel like it’s something I gotta get used to playing NBA games again. I feel it a little bit.”

Especially in watching Cleveland’s Isaiah Thomas go through a similar up-and-down period with his return, nobody should’ve expected LaVine’s performances to just keep rising and rising without dropoff.

This is part of the rehab, and the Bulls feel as if they’re prepared for it. Their reasoning for only marginally increasing LaVine’s workload from 20 to 24 minutes is simple: They want him to have off-days to continue strengthening his surgically-repaired knee, not just having him take the practice days as recovery from playing heavy minutes.

“You can’t anticipate any of it,” LaVine said. “I felt good the first two, I feel good now. No injury, no knick-knacks or anything. Just energy-wise and your legs, making sure you’re getting up and down the floor, making sure you’re getting elevation on your jumper and in the lane, I gotta get better at it.”

As self-aware as anyone considering what he’s been through over the past year, he offered an assurance to any who may be concerned.

“I gotta play through it, find ways around it,” LaVine said. “Regardless I’m not scared or anything. I feel fine.”

Dunn out vs. New Orleans: Kris Dunn will be out against the New Orleans Pelicans and it appears more likely he’ll miss Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia as well as he recovers from the concussion he suffered in a scary fall against Golden State earlier this week.

“He has no change in his symptoms,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll know more tomorrow but his symptoms haven’t changed.”

Initially the Bulls didn’t believe Dunn had a concussion but the symptoms emerged early the next morning.

“From what I understand with concussion symptoms, they can take up to 24 hours to develop. It sounds like the initial tests, he passed,” Hoiberg said. “Then he woke up the morning, had a headache, had some dizziness, was re-checked and that’s when they put him in concussion protocol. There’s been very little change since. He’s still having trouble with sleeping. The biggest thing is making sure he’s getting rest and he stays hydrated.”

The tank: One team successfully executed how to tank, and that was the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the Bulls forced them into missing 37 of 48 3-point attempts, and the Bulls jumped on them early and never allowed the Hawks to take a lead, much less get too close.

“We opened with a double-digit lead right out the gate,” Hoiberg said. “Overall, really complete performance for our guys.”

“We knew we had to come out the gate with great effort.”

Robin Lopez continued his impressive play with 20 points and Justin Holiday hit a few shots late to score 13, while Bobby Portis scored 14 in 18 minutes.

But pretty, it was not.

The Bulls haven’t completely abandoned their plans for the season, as they’ll field calls for Holiday, Lopez and of course, have Nikola Mirotic’s exit being first on their docket.

But while this team is relatively whole, this is a game they should win handily.

And they did.

Yet and still, though, this applies to the 13-32 Hawks: