Bulls will take things slowly with Lauri Markkanen's back spasms


Bulls will take things slowly with Lauri Markkanen's back spasms

The Bulls have already said they will be patient with their draft-night acquisition, but that fact was already known with Zach LaVine and his return from an ACL injury.

It sounds like they will use the same caution with their first-round draft pick Lauri Markkanen, who left Friday morning’s practice with back spasms. From the sounds of things, the busy schedule Markkanen has undergone this summer has taken a bit of a toll and the Bulls aren’t going to rush him to get back on the floor.

“He had some tightness in his lower back. He responded very well to the treatments, felt a lot better last night,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Got another round of treatments today. We just feel the smart thing is to be patient with him.”

Hoiberg was a bit tight-lipped when asked if Markkanen would miss the Bulls’ first two preseason games next Tuesday and Wednesday, instances where he’ll be toying with lineups and combinations.

Playing Markkanen at center, along with trying to find minutes at two positions for five players will be Hoiberg’s biggest coaching challenge this season, as Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio will vie for minutes with Markkanen—and make no mistake, Markkanen will play this season.

“Yeah, we’ll play different lineups for sure,” Hoiberg said. “We won’t know for sure until probably the day before, who we’re going to start against New Orleans, and we’ll probably have a completely different lineup against Dallas that second game.”

Markkanen’s Summer League wasn’t terribly impressive but his performance in the EuroBasket Tournament a few weeks ago opened eyes and now an appetite has been developed for the sweet-shooting rookie, who by all accounts, is the best shooter on the team not named LaVine.

The back spasms that have flared up for the second time since being drafted promises to slow things a bit, at least from the standpoint of anticipation. Markkanen hasn’t had the typical summer for a rookie, with his busy schedule leading the Bulls to be careful about his workload.

“He had it one time this summer where it kept him out for two days, where he had a little bit of soreness in his back, but he got over it quickly,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a kid, especially when you’re 20, 21 years old, not a lot of break. He goes from the season to the draft to the Summer League, and he really hasn’t had much of a break, so to give him that time to recover and recuperate and recharge, and now to ramp that activity back up he just had a little bit of soreness. And again, nobody is concerned about this being a long-term issue.”

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again


Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:

Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.