Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Young, LaVine, Mokoka

It’s “highly unlikely” Lauri Markkanen will play again before the All-Star break, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports. Meeting with reporters before tonight’s game, Bulls coach Billy Donovan provided an update on Markkanen, who has missed the last nine contests with a sprained right shoulder.

“He makes progress, but he has not done anything contact-wise, he’s done nothing that at this point in time would show us that he’s going to be back within the next week,” Donovan said. “Could it happen? Sure. Do I feel like it’s likely it’s going to happen? Probably not.”

Markkanen’s original prognosis was two to four weeks, and Johnson notes that the full four weeks will take him to March 8, three days before the Bulls start the second half of their season. Markkanen has played in 14 of Chicago’s first 30 games and is averaging a career-high 19.1 PPG.

“The biggest challenge I think for Lauri right now is because of the injury, if he reinjures it or hurts it again relatively quickly on his return, it’s going to almost put him back to ground zero again,” Donovan said. “So he’s working with the medical staff and he’s doing what he can physically to keep himself in condition.”

There’s more from Chicago:
  • With second-half schedules released today, Thaddeus Young believes the Bulls can make a strong playoff push in April, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. The team’s slate for April includes a game with the Timberwolves and two each with the Grizzlies, Hawks and Cavaliers. There are also some matchups with teams they will battling for playoff spots, such as the Pacers, Knicks and Heat. “I’m an analytical guy,” Young said. “I look at the numbers, I look at who’s in front of us, I look at our schedule and I’ve seen months where we can kind of take care of business and really push some leeway and some gaps in between us and other teams. I see in April where we can really cover some ground on some teams that we can really step in and face and make sure we take care of business.”
  • Zach LaVine has higher goals now that he has been named an All-Star for the first time, notes Sam Smith of NBA.com. “You want to be MVP of a championship team,” he said Tuesday after learning that he had been selected as a reserve. “Obviously, if we continue to play the right way and I’m playing at a high level, I can see myself as All-NBA team. If I continue to up my defense and being consistent, I can see myself as an All-Defensive team guy.”
  • Second-year swingman Adam Mokoka, who is on a two-way contract, has been transferred to the G League and will join the Austin Spurs, the Bulls announced (via Twitter). He has seen limited playing time in seven games this season.
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