Bulls

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solution isn't simple

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solution isn't simple

MILWAUKEE — When Thad Young played for the Pacers, this was, according to Young, that team’s scouting report on Lauri Markkanen:

“He’s a guy who can score in different levels of the game. He can shoot the midrange. He can take you off the dribble and do his hanging fade to get his shot off. Or he can step behind the line and tee up some 3s,” Young said. “So we tried to keep him seeing bodies so he wouldn’t take the ball from one side to the other.”

Markkanen’s struggles — and the Bulls’ usage of him — is becoming an almost daily storyline. It certainly dominated Monday’s postgame questioning after the Bulls dropped to 1-18 versus winning teams with a 111-98 loss to the Bucks.

For the second time in three games, Markkanen failed to score in the second half. Seven of his 11 attempts came from 3-point range — all of which he missed. His eight points came from two putbacks and four free throws.

That’s it.

“He missed some shots he normally makes. That happens,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I thought he was moving well. He had a couple great cuts to the basket, opportunities at the rim. That’s what we want from him — inside, outside.”

But that’s not happening enough. Fifty-three percent of Markkanen’s attempts this season have been 3-pointers. That’s up 11.5 percent from last season and 4.1 percent from his rookie season.

Too often, Markkanen is being relegated to playing as a stationary, 3-point shooter and not the dynamic, multifaceted scorer for whom Young’s Pacers teams prepared.

“Yeah, I think I can do a lot of good things besides just shoot threes,’’ Markkanen said. “Haven’t really been able to do that lately. Just have to figure out the way I can attack the rim more and get to the free-throw line. I need to figure out my spots.”

This is not meant to fully absolve Markkanen, who has indeed missed open looks consistently this season. For the second straight game, Markkanen joked about how Boylen called a play for him on the first possession, only for Markkanen to turn it over.

Markkanen also again acknowledged the sore left ankle he is playing through as he tries to reach his well documented goal of playing all 82 games. Markkanen called the ankle “not normal but getting there” and also shook off banging knees with Donte DiVincenzo that left him running hobbled for a few possessions.

Markkanen said he has no problem talking to Boylen about his usage and, as is his nature, looked inward.

“We’ve talked about it. He ran some plays for me. I turned it over. He does run some stuff for me. I just have to make the plays,” he said. “If you shoot the ball like [I have], you don’t really deserve touches. Can’t really complain.

“When you’re feeling it and actually making shots, it would be good to get closer to the rim and kind of keep it going. A lot of our plays I screen and pop.’’

The Bulls tied their franchise record with 48 3-point attempts. Boylen said that was the gameplan since opponents averaged 40 3-point attempts and 17.5 makes in the Bucks’ mere six losses.

Never mind that even if the Bulls hadn’t gone ice cold in the second half to finish with 14 makes that adding 3.5 more makes would’ve still left them on the losing end. The Markkanen problem is bigger than a math problem.

“I think the system complements him to the point where he has a lot of freedom to do different things,” Young said. “If he’s open, he takes a 3. If he’s not, he tries to make a play. He’s doing the best he can, just like me and any other guy on this roster. He has to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”

Markkanen now has nine single-digit scoring games after posting just four last season. He has nine 20-point games after registering 22 last season.

This is a huge season for Markkanen not only because his success is tied into the success of the Bulls’ rebuild but also because he’ll be eligible for an extension of his rookie contract following this season.

“I know he’s going to work. And he cares. He has high character,” Boylen said. “I believe in him. And our team believes in him.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Recap of the NBA 2020 All-Star game in Chicago

lebron_james.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Recap of the NBA 2020 All-Star game in Chicago

David Haugh, Alex Maragos and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The NBA All-Star Game is over and the city was the biggest star of the weekend. The guys weigh in on the thrilling finish and if the rule changes saved the All-Star game.

5:30 - Michael Jordan was not in the "House That MJ Built." Should his Airness have had more of a presence?

9:00 - Michael Reinsdorf and John Paxson spent the weekend asking some of the sport's heavy hitters about how to fix their front office. Will the changes work?

13:00 - Jesse Rogers joins Kap from Cubs camp in Mesa to talk about Javy Baez's comments about not being ready to play some days. They also discuss Kris Bryant's candid comments about his contract and his future with the Cubs.

18:00 - The guys weigh in on Tom Rickett's comments on the state of the team's baseball budget.

26:00 - Chuck Garfien joins Kap from Sox camp in Glendale. They talk about the excitement level with everybody in camp, the team's thoughts on the Astros scandal, the chances Nick Madrigal breaks camp with the team and the Carlos Rodon's progress from Tommy John surgery.

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

 

Sports Talk Live Podcast

Subscribe:

 

 

NBA Power Rankings: Spirited Elam ending caps off a successful All-Star weekend

kemba-walker-all-star.jpg
USA Today

NBA Power Rankings: Spirited Elam ending caps off a successful All-Star weekend

The city of Chicago is drawing rave reviews for putting on a tremendous show at All-Star weekend. Sure, it was brutally cold last Thursday and Friday, but once inside the venues, the participants and spectators were treated to some spectacular entertainment.

The weekend ended with the most spirited All-Star game competition we’ve seen in decades... maybe ever. Not many people had heard about the Elam ending which establishes a target score to win the game rather than a typical timed format. It had received positive reviews during the summer TBT (The Basketball Tournament) which is a winner take all team competition involving players representing their former universities. Chris Paul suggested to NBA commissioner Adam Silver that the format could be a big hit for the All-Star game, and boy was he right.

The 10 players on the court competed with the ferocity normally saved for the NBA Finals. We got to enjoy the world’s best players completely locked in on the defensive end, refusing to give any ground, and going at each other with bone-jarring screens and physical back to the basket pounding.

Some analysts feared the 24 points added to the leading team’s total to establish the target score would result in a fourth quarter that would be over in just a few minutes. Instead, the greatest players in the game battled for almost 45 minutes, with the pressure to get to the target score resulting in missed free throws by normally excellent shooters and a blown uncontested lay-up by Team Giannis’ Kemba Walker.

Team LeBron wound up winning by two, anks to a made free throw by Chicago native Anthony Davis to reach the target score of 157, and when it was over, all the players talked about how much fun it was to compete under the new format.

Yes, the 24-point idea came about to honor the memory of Kobe Bryant, and you know that Bryant would have loved the way his brothers competed with all their will and talent. Matter of fact, my only concern was that the players were competing TOO hard. For example, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s chasedown block of LeBron James in the closing minutes was spectacular, but can you imagine if either superstar had been hurt by tumbling to the ground after meeting at the rim?

You can expect some tweaks to the format in future years, and it’s probably unlikely the players will compete with the same kind of physicality we saw Sunday night, given the special circumstances involved with the whole weekend serving as a tribute to Kobe.

But it looks like the NBA has found a format that will re-energize the All-Star game, and that will be the biggest takeaway from a very successful weekend in Chicago.

Now, a look at this week’s power rankings as the schedule resumes on Thursday.