Lauri Markkanen is having an outstanding season for the Jazz and is a prime candidate to make his first All-Star appearance. In a Q&A session with Mark Medina of NBA.com, the Finnish forward says that a strong performance at EuroBasket and being in top physical condition have contributed to his improved play, noting that he expected the team to be successful in 2022/23.
“I had high expectations, especially after this summer,” Markkanen said. “I got my confidence going with the national team. There were a lot of NBA guys [in EuroBasket]. Physically, I’m in the best shape of my life. So, I had high expectations from the beginning. We have a lot of good players on this team. So, I had high expectations with the team even coming into the year, especially after training camp started.
“We have a good team. We just have to stay on the same page and build off our chemistry. We have a lot of new guys. But that was the same thing last season when I was in Cleveland. Everyone was doubting you at the beginning of the year. Then we started out well. Having that experience and then going into training camp, I knew we had a good team. We just have to keep going and keep getting better with knowing each other and staying on the same page.”
Markkanen also says he was limited to highlights and recaps growing up in Finland due to games being on in the middle of the night, and didn’t actually start watching NBA games until he came stateside to play college ball at Arizona. It’s an interesting interview from Medina and worth checking out in full.
Here’s more on the Jazz:
- Big man Kelly Olynyk, who recently missed four straight games with a left ankle sprain, was able to return to the lineup in Wednesday’s loss at Golden State, tweets Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. The 31-year-old Canadian is having a solid season for Utah, averaging 12.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.1 SPG on .520/.431/.835 shooting through 33 games (28.5 MPG).
- Marc J. Spears of Andscape details how David Fizdale went from coaching to an assistant general manager position with the Jazz. Fizdale was an assistant coach with the Lakers last season, but Darvin Ham decided to go in a different direction. Fizdale had a job offer to be an assistant coach under Nate McMillan with the Hawks, but he ultimately declined it when he was offered the Jazz’s front office position. According to Spears, Fizdale told friend and Jazz part-owner Dwyane Wade that “being a more present husband and dad” played a big factor in his desire for a new role, with Wade later informing president Danny Ainge of Fizdale’s interest.
- On the How ‘Bout This Jazz podcast, Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune explored the reported rumor of Utah discussing a three-team trade, rookie Walker Kessler being a pleasant surprise, potential lineup changes, and other topics.