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Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen out 2-4 weeks with sprained shoulder

Chicago Bulls v Orlando Magic

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 5: Lauri Markkanen #24 of the Chicago Bulls drives to the basket against the Orlando Magic on February 5, 2021 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Finally healthy and in a coach’s system that knows how to use his skill set, Lauri Markkanen is off to the best start of his career. He’s averaging 19.2 points and 6.1 rebounds a game, shooting 39.6% from three, and he has found a groove in a contract year.

Or, he was healthy until he sprained his shoulder in the first quarter Friday against Orlando, running into Gary Clark on a drive to the rim.

Markkanen had an MRI, and the team announced Monday he will be out 2-4 weeks. That means a minimum of seven games without him, and likely more.

Markkanen being out moves Denzel Valentine into the starting lineup. It also means more run for rookie Patrick Williams, who has flashed all kinds of potential this season (but wisely is being brought along slowly, he is raw).

Markkanen is a restricted free agent at the end of this season; he could not reach a contract extension deal with the new Bulls’ front office (which is not a surprise). The Bulls are evaluating all their players this season and where they fit within the team’s long-term plans.