Perhaps building on his strong start to his season, Lauri Markkanen is taking a glass-half-full approach to his latest setback, a sprained right shoulder that the team said will sideline him two to four weeks.
“I try to look at the positives. With a shoulder, it could’ve always been worse,” Markkanen said via a Zoom call from the Advocate Center on Tuesday. “Obviously, when it happened, I was frustrated and disappointed. I did everything on my part to not have this happen. That’s part of the game unfortunately. I feel better. I would say not every day. There are bumps in the road. But I do feel better now compared to when it happened. So that’s good.
“The main thing for me is to stay in shape and get my conditioning in. I’m obviously able to run. They said two to four weeks and obviously we’re hoping to be back sooner than that. We’re just going to go day-by-day.”
In his first public comments since suffering the injury during the Bulls’ victory in Orlando on Saturday, Markkanen said he calmed the initial discomfort he experienced after banging into Gary Clark on a first-quarter drive by icing his shoulder at halftime.
“I felt fine coming out in the third. Then it just kept getting worse,” Markkanen said. “I can’t remember what play it was, just a simple basketball move of lifting my arm got it again. That’s when I subbed out the last time in the third quarter.”
Markkanen joins the injured Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, who is out indefinitely for personal reasons, on the sideline. Given that the Bulls largely appeared to be in evaluation mode this season with a new management regime and coaching staff, Billy Donovan fielded a question about whether all the injuries changes the focus to perhaps selling off pieces in advance of the March 25 trade deadline.
"As a coach and as players, our focus has been just trying to get better each day. I’m sure there will be a time and a place for (executive vice president) Artūras Karnišovas and I to sit down and talk about that," Donovan said. "But we’ve really talked more about the team -- how we’re playing, where we can get better, how guys can improve collectively as a group, how they can improve individually? That’s really where our total focus has been right now."
When the Bulls hired Donovan, he openly talked about the connection he felt with Karnišovas and how their shared sensibilities could form a partnership.
"I think Artūras, just my time with him, is a very patient guy. And he’s a very observant guy. And he’s a very, very bright guy. I think he’s evaluating everything and looking at everything, and I really trust and believe he’s going to want to make decisions that I know are going to help the Chicago Bulls," Donovan said. "And I know at the appropriate time he and I will talk about those things.
"So I don’t know where the landscape is of who’s interested, or what team is interested, or what players we may be. I have no idea. I just know my total focus and investment has been with these guys, and I’ve loved every minute of it because they’ve been incredibly coachable. They’ve been great to work with. They’ve been professional."