Surprise!

Though Fred Hoiberg said earlier this week that Lauri Markkanen was still "at least a week away" from returning to the Bulls lineup, the 7-footer appears to have made excellent strides in practice and will make his season debut tonight against the Houston Rockets.

Markkanen returned to practice in full on Tuesday, 60 days after suffering a sprained right elbow that was inititally supposed to keep him out of the lineup 6 to 8 weeks. That timeline was then bumped to 8 to 10 weeks as Markkanen neared the 8-week mark.

He practiced Tuesday and came out feeling fine, then practiced again with the team on Thursday in Detroit. Hoiberg tempered expectations throughout on when Markkanen might return to the lineup, and the Dec. 1 date is much earlier than the expected return on either Dec. 4 against the Pacers or Dec. 7 against the Thunder.

Now the Bulls get back a player that's arguably the centerpiece to their rebuild. As a rookie Markkanen averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, and was the fastest player in NBA history to record 100 3-pointers. He was named to the All-Rookie team and will immediately help out a Bulls offense ranked last in efficiency.

 
Tune in to NBC Sports Chicago starting at 6:30 for coverage of Markkanen's debut and  Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.