Lauri Markkanen realized something wasn't right in the early minutes of Tuesday's game against the Toronto Raptors.
He committed a turnover on the Bulls' second possession, then missed a jumper in the lane and couldn't finish two shots at the rim all within the first 4 minutes. It was around that time, Markkanen told reporters Friday at the Advocate Center, that he began experiencing what was later diagnosed as extreme fatigue.
"I wasn't really worried at any point, Markkanen said. "Just felt really weird. How you are after a workout and a couple minutes in (to the game) I felt like I already finished a workout. It was kind of tough stuff but I'm still alive. It wasn't scary but it felt pretty weird."
Markkanen gutted out 16 minutes in the first half, finishing 2 of 10 from the field with 10 points and nine rebounds. The statline notwithstanding, it was clear Markkanen wasn't moving like his usual self, so it wasn't a surprise that Markkanen didn't return in the second half - the Bulls trailing by 15 also made the decision easier.
Markkanen wasn't available to reporters after the game because he was still undergoing testing with the Bulls' medical staff and Raptors team physician. As a precautionary meaure, Markkanen spent the night in a local Toronto hospital to undergo more testing. Markkanen flew back to Chicago on Wednesday and later that night was ruled out for the remainder of the season after what the Bulls called "an episode of a rapid heart rate and fatigue."
The good news is that Markkanen said he's feeling better and the hope and belief is that this episode is a one-time matter. He said it was not related to the flu-like symptoms he battled through on March 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, which just so happened to be the beginning of a slump to end the year. Markkanen went through non-contact portions of practice on Friday and will continue to travel with the team for their final three road games.
But he'll do so wearing a heart monitor as the team and medical staff continue to evaluate the 21-year-old forward in an attempt to "get some additional information."
"We’re trying to act like I’m playing and do the same stuff (in practice)," he said. I did in the non-contact part of practice and I’m going to be travelling with the team and living the normal NBA life. They’re gonna see how it reacts to that but I feel fine."
Markkanen said he wanted to play in the second half of the game in Toronto but understood why he was held out. After missing 10 weeks and 23 regular season games with an elbow sprain suffered on Day 1 of training camp, Markkanen said he had made it a goal to finish out the season with no further time missed. And prior to him missing Wednesday's game against the Blazers, he hadn't missed a single game since returning from the elbow sprain.
"I took a lot of pride on if I had something small just playing through it and not missing any more games," he said. "It’s just unfortunate, but health is the most important. So I'm frustrated I can’t play but it is what it is."
The additional rest will be good for Markkanen, who ended his sophomore season with averages of 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 3-pointers per game. He just didn't look like in March, perhaps the byproduct of missing those 10 weeks and not being able to get his body in game shape. But between him, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Kris Dunn and a likely top-5 draft pick, he's still confident the Bulls will be improved next season as they begin Year 3 of the rebuild.
"We’re really confident in this group of guys we have," he said. "High character guys who work really hard and come together really well. Good team chemistry. I’m really confident going forward."