Bulls

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

It'd be a stretch to say that any rookie is having a better or more impactful season than Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 9-7, and Simmons looks like a 10-year veteran with his decision making, athleticism and all-around feel for the game. He's the frontrunner for MVP, but there are two other rookies vying to catch Simmons and win that title. And they'll face each other tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball was the second pick in June's NBA Draft, and fellow Pac-12 freshman standout Lauri Markkanen went five picks later to the Bulls, who had traded up as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players were drafted to rebuilding franchises - the Lakers still working out the kinks in the post-Kobe era, and the Bulls beginning their rebuild after dealing Butler - and were expected to make immediate impacts on their franchises.

Ball's was more pronounced, as the Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell to the Nets on draft night to free up space at the point for their prized No. 2 pick. Markkanen's came more abruptly, as the 20-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic's fight put Mirotic in the hospital and Portis on paid leave. However they got there, both players have been impressive in their early NBA careers.

Starting with Markkanen, the Bulls knew the 7-foot stretch forward was a perfect build for the modern NBA. He set freshman 3-point and rebounding records that, since 1992, only some guy named Kevin Durant had reached. After a successful summer in Eurobasket he was set for a large role with the Bulls, and he's succeeded in just about every aspect. His 15.6 points per game are third only to Simmons and the other Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and his 8.1 rebounds are second to Simmons. And his 2.6 made 3-pointers per game are most among rookies, and well past No. 2 on the list (Utah's Donovan Mitchell, 1.9 per game).

In fact, Markkanen would become the only rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers per game. The 2.5 3-pointers would break a rookie record currently held by Damian Lillard (2.3 per game). The closest a rookie has ever come to reaching those marks was Stephen Curry, who averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers per game as a rookie. Allen Iverson also met the 4/2 threshold, but that's a far cry from Markkanen's 8/2.5 mark. Paul Pierce's rookie season saw him average 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers.

But that's not all. If he kept those averages up he would be just the fifth player EVER to accomplish those thresholds. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Antonie Walker, who naturally did it twice.

So, yeah, Markkanen is having quite a rookie year.

So, too, is Ball. While he's had some real issues with efficiency, slashing .313/.228/.462 and has committed 2.6 turnovers per game, his counting stats have been outstanding. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and that puts him in equally impressive company.

Simmons has reached those numbers this season, too, averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. You may have heard of the other two players, named Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

The two future Hall of Famers averaged these numbers:

Robertson: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists (missing averaging a triple-double for the season by 20 assists)

Johnson: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

Ball is also averaging 0.9 blocks, and no other rookie guard has ever accomplished that. It might not always look pretty for Markkanen and Ball as they feel their way out in the NBA, but just remember watching these two that they're in the midst of making history in the new era of the NBA.

Report: Jimmy Butler granted permission to avoid media day on Monday

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USA TODAY

Report: Jimmy Butler granted permission to avoid media day on Monday

On Saturday morning, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Jimmy Butler had been granted permission to avoid the Timberwolves media day, amidst the drama created by his trade demand:

The decision comes as no shock, as no one fully expected the Timberwolves to execute a Jimmy Butler trade in 24 hours.

It will take a while for this situation to come to a conclusion, as Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Tom Thibodeau—already prepared to hold on to Butler following his trade demand—will surely look for the best trade offer that still gives them the ability to be playoff contenders. 

Some NBA fans, like the ever-relevant Rob Perez, were not fans of Minnesota shutting down more drama before it could get started:

It is not yet known if Minnesota is actively engaging in trade discussions with any of the teams on Butler's preferred teams list (Clippers, Nets, Knicks).

If they have, there is a reasonable chance that a Butler trade can be done by early-October. A source from the NBA board of governors meeting told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, "The owner's trading him..... It's just a matter of when."

The sooner a deal is done, the sooner the Timberwolves can start to integrate their new piece(s) before their season opener in San Antonio. 

Inflammatory arthritis to keep Omer Asik out indefinitely

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USA TODAY

Inflammatory arthritis to keep Omer Asik out indefinitely

It was announced on Saturday morning, that Omer Asik will be out indefinitely. 

Asik had an arthritis flare up over the summer, and that is the key to his current diagnosis. The Bulls acquired Asik last season in the Nikola Mirotic trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

He has two years and north of $22 million left on his contract (including this current season).

The Bulls never expected Asik to play heavy minutes, and this injury puts his 2018-19 season in jeopardy, 

This is Asik's second stint with the Bulls, as he played with Chicago in the first two seasons of his career.