Bulls

1,000/500: Lauri Markkanen adds to historic rookie season with Bulls

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USA TODAY

1,000/500: Lauri Markkanen adds to historic rookie season with Bulls

Lauri Markkanen continues to make history during his impressive rookie season, and he added another accomplishment Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets.

Markkanen grabbed six rebounds in 26 minutes to give him an even 500 for the year. The 500-rebound mark, combined with the 1,013 points he has scored this season, makes him the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand in 1999 to go for 1,000/500. Brand won Rookie of the Year, becoming the first rookie since Tim Duncan (1998) and Shaquille O'Neal (1993) to average 20 points and 10 rebounds as a rookie.

And while Markkanen won't win Rookie of the Year (sorry Donovan Mitchell fans, it's Ben Simmons), he's actually in the midst of an historic rookie campaign.

Consider this: Since 1979, when the NBA introduced the 3-point line, 108 players have scored 1,000 points and grabbed 500 rebounds in their rookie season, Markkanen becoming the latest on Monday. That makes Markkanen's rookie season impressive in its own right: 108 players have done so in 39 seasons, or 2.7 players per season.

Consider also that the last players to do this, the company Markkanen is joining, are Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins.

OK, let's have some fun and include some of the 108 who have done it: Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Ralph Sampson and Willis Reed.

But we're burying the lede here. Markkanen is new age NBA. The stretch forward is becoming a necessity, not a luxury, for NBA offenses. So consider the real stat here:

Before Markkanen, none of the 107 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds had made 110 or more 3-pointers in their respective rookie seasons.

But Markkanen has done that. Easily. He's made 140 3-pointers. With a game to go. There are non-rookies like him, and more players like him will enter the NBA moving forward, but it's also safe to say that there's never been a rookie season quite like Markkanen's.

To put that 1,000/500/140 mark into perspective, here are the players who have accomplished it this season: LeBron James, Dario Saric, Markkaken.

Yep. Safe to say Markkanen is on the fast track to stardom. History says so.

Wendell Carter's begins rehab with positive outlook: 'I'm just looking at the long-term now'

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USA TODAY

Wendell Carter's begins rehab with positive outlook: 'I'm just looking at the long-term now'

When Wendell Carter Jr. tripped over Tyson Chandler early in the Bulls’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last week, he didn’t think much of his jammed left thumb. He had some soreness but wasn’t in much pain despite the thumb swelling. In fact, he was planning on playing Saturday after sitting out Thursday’s game as a precaution.

That’s when the roller coaster began. The Bulls reportedly had internal fear that Carter’s injury was significant, but a second scan showed that the ligament in his thumb was actually intact. But Carter saw a hand specialist back in Chicago and it was revealed that surgery was the best scenario. Both Joakim Noah (2010) and Kirk Hinrich (2008) had the same surgery.

“So many people have had this injury and they don’t get it taken care of and bones are coming out of their socket very easily,” Carter said. “I just wanted to eliminate all that. If I was to get in a cast and come back and the tendon didn’t come back out, then I’d have to wait another eight weeks and get the surgery. So I just went ahead and knocked it out to get it out of the way.

"It's all good. I'm just looking at the long-term now."

Carter underwent the season-ending surgery on Monday. He’ll be in a cast for 10 days and begin rehab on the thumb while wearing a splint. Though Carter never explicitly stated his rookie season is over, the Bulls have 11 weeks remaining in the regular season and will be in no rush to bring back their 19-year-old foundation piece.

Carter’s rookie season was typical but one that featured more good than bad. It took him just a few days to supplant Robin Lopez as the team’s starting center, a position he didn’t relinquish despite being one of the league’s youngest players. He averaged 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 25.2 minutes.

He played multiple roles in his 44-game rookie season, acting as a third scorer and at times an initiator in the high post while Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn were sidelined early in the season. As the Bulls regained their health Carter was able to focus more defensively and work around the rim.

"That was something I always worked for ever since I was a kid, to be able to get to the NBA. Not just get here but also be a star in this league," Carter said. "Those games show the potential I have in this league."

Jim Boylen applauded Carter’s maturity in his rookie season and how he was able to bounce back from bad quarters by not letting it affect the rest of his game. His hard-nosed defensive principles certainly played to what Boylen looks for in a foundation, and Boylen was pleased with how Carter improved his shooting and decision making in the pain.

“I think he had a great learning curve in those 44 games and he’ll keep learning as he’s watching, things will make more sense to him now while he’s watching. And it’s not ideal but it is what it is.”

Carter will soak in as much as he can the rest of the season while he rehabs the thumb, and it’s Boylen’s hope that he’ll travel with and be around the team during the final weeks of the season.

“I like guys being around. (Denzel) Valentine’s been with us. I love Wendell’s spirit around this group. He’s got a great kind of swag to him and energy level to him, he likes being around the team so yeah I hope so.”

Wendell Carter Jr. endorses Zion Williamson as NBA Draft's top pick: 'No doubt about it'

Wendell Carter Jr. endorses Zion Williamson as NBA Draft's top pick: 'No doubt about it'

Wendell Carter knows a thing or two about elite Duke prospects. So it isn’t surprising that he, too, has become enamored with freshman sensation Zion Williamson. He also believes, like many others, that the latest in the line of five-star Blue Devils should be the first player called in June’s draft.

“He’s a for sure No. 1 draft pick. No doubt about it,” said Carter, who spoke with the media for the first time Tuesday after undergoing surgery on his left thumb. “I don’t understand how anybody can pass up his athleticism, his potential.”

Carter isn’t far off in his assessment. Williamson, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward, has taken college basketball by storm in his first season in Durham. He’s averaging 21.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 2.0 steals per game and is a nightly feature on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays for his gravity-defying dunks.

He’s arguably the best pro prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012, and he’s as unique a combination of size, strength and skill as the league has seen since LeBron James in 2003. Though his teammate, wing R.J. Barrett, has also solidified himself as a top 2 or 3 pick, there really isn’t anyone in the same ballpark as Williamson.

So it’s not just Carter showing a bias toward his Duke alums. Carter has never shared the floor with Williamson despite being just a year older than him, though he has seen the freshman play. Williamson also attended a Duke game last season where Carter and teammate Marvin Bagley were working toward solidifying themselves as top-10 picks.

Carter hasn’t played with Williamson, but maybe that’ll change in a few months. Even with Monday’s win over the Cavaliers the Bulls still sit at 11-36, the fourth worst record in the league and within shouting distance of Phoenix (11-37), New York (10-35) and Cleveland (9-39). The league’s three worst teams also hold the same 14 percent chance of winning the Lottery while the team with the fourth (12.5%) and fifth (10.5%) worst records hold slightly lower odds.

Whoever gets lucky on May 14 will have the right to draft Williamson, who Carter certainly has bought in on.

“That’s a freak of nature, a once-in-a-generation type player. I believe he’ll be No. 1.”