The game was pretty simple for Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen.
After struggling a bit in his preseason opener Sunday night, Markkanen showed he belonged, at least to this point, in a smooth performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Guarding LeBron James is a herculean task for just about anybody, so being overwhelmed wasn’t news. But his well-talked about ability to shoot was finally on display and not just urban legend from Fred Hoiberg.
He got to the open spots in the offense and unleashed four triples on his way to 18 points, and even ran the floor to finish a fast break with a one-handed dunk in the second half as the Bulls pulled away.
Markkanen’s shooting is why the Bulls drafted him seventh, as they believe he’ll be a matchup problem for years to come in Hoiberg’s movement-based system. His jumper was fluid, confident, smooth and most importantly, high—as in his release point.
There were times he had a matchup advantage against a smaller guard and the Bulls didn’t track him to take advantage, which can be as much of a function of what he can’t yet do as much as his teammates not giving him the ball.
But as his game evolves and the Bulls will wait on him through the years, being a deadeye shooter will keep him on the floor in the meantime.
Justin Holiday: Holiday continues to impress, solidifying a place in the rotation even when Zach LaVine returns and nailing down the shooting guard spot in the meantime.
With a nose for the ball on both ends, Holiday brings an element of movement that is necessary for this offense to work. On defense, he’s aggressive and handsy without getting himself into too much trouble with fouls or being out of position.
You’ll take the six turnovers as long as he can have nights where he’ll score 28, matching Markkanen’s four-for-seven mark from 3-point range. He added 11 rebounds and played with a gear of speed consistently through the night.
Taking nearly half of the Bulls’ 17 free-throws, Holiday had one against the Eastern Conference champs, looking far more confident than the player the Bulls acquired at the trade deadline in 2016.
He can thank a more consistent jumper for that.
Derrick Rose: Who knows where things stood with the Bulls and Derrick Rose concerning his so-called reluctance to recruit free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010.
But he cleared the air with reporters in the morning shootaround, claiming he did make a video to the top free agents at the time and that the Bulls made sure it got to James, Wade and Bosh.
“Like people always said I didn’t recruit. I tried to recruit. I put out a video but it wasn’t for me to say that,” Rose said. “I felt like the organization was supposed to say that and they didn’t. I put out a video for him [Wade], Chris Bosh and LeBron.”
“(The Bulls organization) they didn’t say anything about it. They sent it. I don’t know if they really actually looked at it or played the video, but I made a video. At the time it wasn’t for me to say that.”
One could say the belief Rose wouldn’t welcome James, Wade or Bosh, or some combination of the trio was a factor in some of the negative perceptions about Rose, even though he won MVP in 2011.
But the fact it took this long should give folks pause about how easy it is to take a negative viewpoint of Rose, who said he never spoke up for himself in the talk about him recruiting or not recruiting, “to see who had my back”.
Wash this one away: Although the Cavaliers were as close to full strength as they’ll be until Isaiah Thomas gets back from his hip injury, take nothing from the 14-point spread as far as the Bulls being better than you think, or that they’ll be better than a bottom-feeder in the Eastern Conference.
Because they don’t wanna be. We’re one preseason game away from an 82-game march to the Porter-Bagler-Doncic sweepstakes.