The hits keep coming for the Bulls.
Monday morning, the team announced that Lauri Markkanen is expected to miss 2-to-4 weeks with a right shoulder sprain suffered in Friday night's loss to the Magic in Orlando. An MRI upon returning to Chicago -- where the Bulls face the Washington Wizards Monday night -- confirmed the diagnosis. The low end of that timeline would see Markkanen miss 7 games; the high end 13, as the first half of the NBA schedule wraps on March 4.
"It’s an unfortunate situation, but for him this year, he’s really, really helped our team quite a bit," said head coach Billy Donovan before Monday's tip with the Washington Wizards. "He’s (Markkanen) played really well, I think on both ends of the floor. We’ll miss him."
Denzel Valentine started in Markkanen's place in Saturday's win, sliding Patrick Williams into the de facto power forward slot, against a short-handed Magic lineup that played relatively small outside of center Nikola Vučević. Also playing without Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. for the time being, it remains to be seen how Donovan will adjust his starting lineup and rotations moving forward.
What is certain is that the news is a blow to Markkanen and the Bulls. The fourth-year forward was off to a hot-shooting start to the season; through 14 appearances, he is averaging 19.1 points on 51.4 percent shooting from the field and 39.6 percent from 3, all of which would be career-bests.
"He's just disappointed he can't be out there," Donovan said. "We had shootaround this morning and he's working out, obviously he can't do any lifting and stuff with his shoulder, but he's out running up and down the court, trying to keep himself conditioned. I think he has been pretty pleased with the way he's played, and I think for him the disappointment is he can't go out there and compete and play with the rest of the team."
Indeed, Markkanen is now set to miss extended time once again after facing a litany of injuries over his first three seasons. In 2019-20, a pelvis strain sidelined him for 15 of the Bulls' 65 games before the season was suspended; in 2018-19, he took the floor for 51 of 82 contests; his rookie year, 68 of 82.
Markkanen had already missed 8 of the Bulls' 22 games this season after landing in the NBA's COVID-19 protocol for close contact with a teammate positive for the virus.