Lauri Markkanen

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Mirotic, LaVine, Nwaba

Rookie Lauri Markkanen will keep his starting job when Nikola Mirotic is cleared to return, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Coach Fred Hoiberg confirmed that decision before tonight’s game. The seventh overall pick in this year’s draft is off to an impressive start, averaging 14.5 points and 7.8 rebounds through his first 11 games.

Markkanen got a chance to start after Mirotic suffered two broken facial bones in a scrimmage altercation with Bobby Portis. With Miotic injured and Portis suspended, an opportunity opened up for Markkanen. “[The situation] gave me a bigger chance right away,” Markkanen said. “But I’m glad to have Bobby back and hopefully Niko back. I have to do my work on the court and prove that I can be a starter.”

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Mirotic’s Concussion, Surgery

A solid string of performances throughout his first week as an NBA pro has Lauri Markkanen turning heads. Most recently, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders writes, the rookie out of Arizona has impressed Cavaliers superstar LeBron James.

He’s going to continue to get better,” James told the media. “The best thing about it is he’s getting an opportunity. If he makes mistakes, he can learn on the fly, but he’s going to play a lot. He’s good. It seems like he’s learning. He’s a good player.

In three games with the Bulls so far, Markkanen has averaged an impressive 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s done so in matchups against an array of formidable teams: the Spurs, Raptors and Cavs.

While much has gone wrong for the squad so far this season, the good news is that they seem to have nailed the draft pick that came with their offseason Jimmy Butler trade. Of course the better Markkanen plays, the harder it will be to relegate him to the bench when sidelined teammates Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis return to action.

That’s a challenge the organization is happy to face.

There’s more out of Chicago:

  • LeBron James wasn’t the only Cavaliers player to speak highly of Lauri Markkanen. As Sam Amico of Amico Hoops writes, he impressed Dwyane Wade as well. “You can see if a guy knows how to play basketball when you first see him, right away. In the preseason, we all said he can play. No matter his age he can play. He’s aggressive. He understands they need him to score,” Wade said.
  • After showing this summer that he’d like to remain in Chicago, Nikola Mirotic‘s camp suggested that his stance may not have necessarily changed, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. That being said, there’s growing sentiment that, perhaps, he and Bobby Portis won’t be able to co-exist. As Johnson notes, there will presumably be more clarity as Mirotic recovers.
  • Speaking of Nikola Mirotic‘s recovery, the 26-year-old hasn’t yet been cleared from concussion protocol, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The forward will not be cleared for surgery until such time (if surgery proves necessary). Mirotic’s next concussion appointment will be next week.

Central Notes: Pistons, Rose, Wade, Markkanen

Despite a disappointing 2016/17 campaign, in which the Pistons finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs, owner Tom Gores still has confidence in coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy, reports Ansar Khan of MLive.com. “Do I believe in Stan? Absolutely,” Gores said. “He works hard. He told me the other day how hard this team is working. They practice hard. The game is one thing, but practice is important, so Stan really feels good about it … We’re seeing this through, absolutely.”

Gores also touched on the Pistons’ return to Detroit after spending the prior 29 seasons in Auburn Hills. “Back in Detroit. I think that’s a big deal. The city’s worked really hard for this. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure exactly how to express it other than I’m just so happy for you guys, for the community … I feel really fortunate to be here.” Despite last season’s frustration, the Pistons are off to a 2-1 start; enough to place them atop the Central Division in the early going of the 2017/18 season.

Here’s more news from the Central:

  • Derrick Rose is unconcerned about his left ankle injury that kept him out of the Cavaliers’ 21-point loss against the Magic on Saturday night, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. In fact, Rose seems more concerned about the effect his absence may have on his conditioning level rather than the ankle itself. “It’s a mild sprain, nothing too serious,” Rose said. “Been getting lot of treatment since this morning, actually (Friday) night. They’re staying on top of it. Like I said, I just don’t want to lose my conditioning because I feel like I’m in great shape right now.” 
  • While Rose looks to make his return to the court in the near future, teammate Dwyane Wade is still trying to find his rhythm on the court with the Cavaliers, reports Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Wade is averaging a mere 5.7 PPG on 28% shooting in his first three games with the Cavaliers. “I’m trying to find it, man,” Wade said. “It’s very different, different than I’ve ever played. Just trying to find my way, as we go on, see how I can be best for this team. Everything’s happened so fast.”
  • In the midst of a rebuilding year and an embarrassing altercation between teammates, the Bulls seem to have found at least one bright spot in rookie Lauri Markkanen, reports Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. Scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in Saturday night’s loss to the Spurs, Markkanen received high praise from a future Hall-of-Famer, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich“Markkanen is a wonderful player. He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.” With both Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the next several games, at least, Markkanen will continue to have an opportunity to showcase his talent against the rest of the league.

Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons, Smith

The Bulls finally embraced a rebuild this offseason so there will be no shortage of attention paid to how they manage each and every asset from this point forward. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the club will be particularly patient with injuries to key young players considering that now more than ever the club can afford to lose ball games.

Between the lingering effects of Zach LaVine‘s 2016/17 ACL injury and preseason setbacks to both Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, the new look Bulls are awfully banged up ahead of the 2017 season opener and may not even see the court together until as late as December.

I think it’s just about being patient,” Dunn, acquired in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler from the Bulls to Minnesota, said. “Lauri, he was in Finland, so there was a lot of strain on his back from all the games they played [in the EuroBasket tournament]. Zach, with his injury, you try to take it slow with him because he’s a big piece to this team. And me, I’m just slowly trying to get back. So it’s just a slow thing.

To that effect, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg has said that his starting lineup when the season begins on Tuesday will consist of Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Paul Zipser and Robin Lopez.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • When Derrick Rose signed a minimum contract with the Cavaliers, he did so as a bet on himself. “I get a chance to reintroduce myself back to the league. I get to bet on myself. That was one of the reasons I came here, I get to bet on myself. And I’m from Chicago, I’ve got that hustling side; it’s in me, man,” he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • While Pistons projects Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson figure to make an impact on the team eventually, they’ll have to beat out defensive-minded veterans Reggie Bullock and Anthony Tolliver for minutes, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site writes. Both Tolliver and Bullock provide plenty of intangible skill that make life easier for the second unit.
  • The announcement that Dwyane Wade would be the Cavaliers‘ starting shooting guard didn’t go over well with J.R. Smith. “We talked about it,” Smith told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “It wasn’t the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we’ll get through it together.

Central Rumors: Zipser, Markkanen, Ellenson, Nachbar

Bulls swingman Paul Zipser projects as a starter during his second season in the league but he sees himself as more of a role player, as Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders details. Zipser, a second-round pick in 2016, will receive expanded playing time after the franchise moved All-Star Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves this summer. Zipser won’t provide All-Star level production but he’ll help the Bulls at both ends of the floor and deliver 12-15 points per game, according to Brigham. “I don’t need to be the leader of the team or the top scorer of the team or to have the ball in my hands the whole time,” he told Brigham. “That’s not who I am as a person, but I wanted a bigger role and more opportunity to do some leading along with some other guys on the team. And that’s what I think is going to happen.” If Zipser flops, his future with the Bulls beyond this season is uncertain. His $1,544,951 salary for 2018/19 is not guaranteed.

In other developments concerning the Central Division:

  • The Bulls would be wise to leave rookie big man Lauri Markkanen at power forward, Vince Goodwill of NBCSports.com opines. Markkanen looks overmatched at this stage trying to guard the likes of Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins, as he did in a preseason game on Sunday, Goodwill continues. However, since the Bulls have two rotation-worthy centers and power forwards, he’ll have to play both positions to get playing time this season, Goodwill notes.
  • Veteran Anthony Tolliver is likely to nab a rotation spot over second-year player Henry Ellenson, but the young Pistons power forward is making that a tougher call, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com explains. Coach Stan Van Gundy told Langlois and other media members after Ellenson scored 16 points against the Hawks in a preseason game this weekend that Ellenson has made a strong impression in training camp. “He’s probably been the most consistent of anybody,” Van Gundy said. “Every time we play, every time we practice, he really hasn’t had – I don’t remember a bad day since the start of camp. I think his confidence is sky high. He’s really focused on what he has to do. He’s playing very, very well.”
  • The Pistons have added Bostjan Nachbar to their international scouting staff, overseas expert David Pick tweets. Nachbar played for three NBA franchises from 2002-08 after the Rockets made him a mid-first-round selection in 2002.

Central Notes: Valentine, Pistons, Markkanen

After a disappointing first season in which he wasn’t heavily utilized as a playmaker, Denzel Valentine is eager to show the Bulls what he’s capable of. The famously versatile forward out of Michigan State told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that his role in 2016/17 was to mostly just be a spot-up shooter.

With so much turnover on the Bulls roster over the summer, Valentine could get his opportunity to flash the rest of his skills and potentially even earn a role as a starter with the young franchise, although head coach Fred Hoiberg has implied that his lineups will be determined through preseason.

The 23-year-old averaged 5.1 points per game last season but underwent surgery on his left ankle at the start of the summer. The second-year Bulls forward is still working his way back into shape.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Count Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy among those who believes that getting rid of the NBA Draft altogether would address the tanking issue, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports.
  • The Pistons have assigned assistant coach Aaron Gray the task of focusing on the skill development of big men, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. Rex Walters, formerly the head coach of the Grand Rapids Drive, will hold a similar role with the backcourt.
  • The Bulls will be cautious with seventh-overall pick Lauri Markkanen‘s injured back. The club won’t rush the first-year big man back to the court, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes.

Central Notes: Bulls, Smith, Johnson

The Bulls have fully embraced a rebuild and it’s centered around Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman declared as much at media day, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

We’re in a position now where we have supportive ownership, we’ve defined our direction and we’re looking forward,” Paxson said. “That’s all Gar and I can do every day.

The three players mentioned were all acquired a draft day deal between the Bulls and Timberwolves that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. The change of course to embrace a rebuild came after a season of trade rumors and speculation that the organization should dismantle its core (among other things).

I do think we can win our fans’ trust back by showing them we can put a group of young players out there who care and show them there’s promise ahead,” Paxson said.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • For now at least, J.R. Smith is the starting shooting guard on the Cavaliers, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. “I’m not going to sit here and get into a ‘blank’ measuring contest with Dwyane Wade,” Smith said. “I’m not going to win that. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to continue to work hard for our team and however they choose to do it, that’s who it’s going to be.”
  • Citing mental maturation and a commitment to improving, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy is optimistic about third-year forward Stanley Johnson‘s progress, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site writes. Van Gundy also praised rookie Luke Kennard‘s performance at training camp thus far.
  • There’s a case to be made for Cavaliers forward LeBron James winning the MVP this season. Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes that the 15-year veteran is coming off one of the best offseasons he’s had since he came into the league.

 

Bulls Notes: Wade, Hoiberg, Forman, Dunn

Dwyane Wade hasn’t contacted the Bulls’ front office about his desire for a buyout and is hoping the team makes the first move, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Wade made his feelings clear that he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuilding project after Chicago traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in June. However, he is reluctant to give up much of the $23.8MM salary for the upcoming season that he opted into and apparently believes he can get a better deal if Bulls management takes the initiative on buyout talks.

A recent report said Wade hasn’t been in contact with anyone from the front office since the Butler deal and that he felt misled because he was given assurances that the Bulls would try to remain competitive before he opted in. At 35, Wade is by far the oldest and most expensive player on Chicago’s roster and he clearly doesn’t fit the team’s youth movement. How far each side is willing to continue before buyout talks begin will be among the most interesting storylines of the new season.

Cowley shares more information out of Chicago:

  • Expectations will be different for coach Fred Hoiberg with the revamped roster, but he still has to show progress to keep his job. Hoiberg has been under fire from fans and the media since coming to Chicago two years ago and was publicly criticized by Butler early in his first season. Cowley calls it “sink-or-swim time” for Hoiberg, who has to turn a young roster into the type of team he envisioned when he was hired.
  • GM Gar Forman’s fate is probably tied to Hoiberg’s, Cowley adds. Forman, who made the decision to bring Hoiberg out of the college ranks, is already unpopular with Bulls’ fans, some of whom paid to put up a billboard in July calling for the firing of him and president of basketball operations John Paxson.
  • Kris Dunn, part of the package acquired in exchange for Butler, has an open path toward being the starting point guard. The fifth pick of the 2016 draft, Dunn had a disappointing rookie season in Minnesota, but the Bulls have no obvious successor to Rajon Rondo.
  • The Bulls are happy with what they have seen from first-round pick Lauri Markkanen during summer league and EuroBasket. The seventh overall selection will be “a key foundation piece” of the rebuild.
  • Robin Lopez is the team’s most valuable trade commodity and seems likely to be moved during the season. The 29-year-old center averaged 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in his first season with the Bulls after being acquired in a deal with the Knicks.

Central Notes: Cavs’ Arena, Markkanen, Pistons

Approximately a week after announcing that they were pulling out of plans for a $140MM renovation project to Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers indicated this week that they’ve recommitted to that project. The Cavs’ change of heart came on the heels of critics withdrawing petitions that would have required a referendum on the city of Cleveland’s contribution to the arena’s renovations, writes Karen Farkas of Cleveland.com.

With their commitment to the renovation project, the Cavs have also agreed to extend their lease at Quicken Loans Arena by an extra seven years, ensuring that the franchise will remain a tenant at the arena through 2034. Assuming construction on those renovations begins soon and stays on schedule, the Cavs may once again have a chance to host the 2020 or 2021 NBA All-Star Game, Farkas notes.

Here’s more from around the Central division:

  • In a pair of pieces for NBA.com, Shaun Powell takes a look back at the offseason moves by the Bucks and Bulls, noting that Milwaukee continues to focus on developing its talented young core, while Chicago’s Jimmy Butler trade signals that the Bulls are also trying to make youth a priority.
  • Speaking of that Butler trade, while many Bulls fans weren’t particularly fond of the return for their All-Star forward, rookie big man Lauri Markkanen is helping to ease that blow, according to Mike Schmitz of ESPN. As Schmitz details, the 20-year-old Markkanen has looked very impressive for Finland in Eurobasket play this offseason.
  • Within his latest mailbag at Pistons.com, Keith Langlois discusses Stan Van Gundy‘s use of his bench, Eric Moreland‘s potential, the new arena in Detroit, and several other Pistons-related topics.

Central Notes: Hawes, Markkanen, Bulls, ‘The Q’

Former Bucks center Spencer Hawes officially cleared waivers Saturday, tweets Keith Smith of Real GM. The veteran center was waived Thursday just before the deadline to stretch his salary, allowing Milwaukee to pay the $6MM he’s still owed in $2MM increments over the next three seasons. The 10-year veteran is now free to sign with anyone and has a little more than three weeks to find a team before training camps open. Hawes saw his playing time drop sharply after the Hornets traded him to the Bucks in February. He averaged just 9 minutes per game in Milwaukee, putting up 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.

There’s more this morning from the Central Division:

  • Bulls officials aren’t concerned about an injury that rookie Lauri Markkanen suffered during Saturday’s EuroBasket tournament, according to Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago (Twitter link). Playing for Finland, Markkanen hurt his leg on a shot at the buzzer that could have tied the game and had to be helped off the court by teammates. However, the seventh pick in this year’s draft appears to be fine and is expected to play today.
  • A series of offseason moves has left the Bulls without the talent to compete for a playoff spot, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE in his “30 teams in 30 days” series. Chicago signaled the start of a rebuilding project on draft day when it traded Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the chance to draft Markkanen. That leaves the team with two veterans in Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez, surrounded by a lot of unproven talent. Blakely criticizes the front office for several bad deals that turned two first-round picks, four second-rounders and Taj Gibson into a group of youngsters with Cameron Payne as the “prize” addition.
  • A proposed $140MM renovation of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena is a good deal for the city, claims Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. He points out that the $70MM in public financing comes mainly from admission taxes on tickets, meaning it will be paid for by people who use the arena. The deal extends the Cavaliers‘ lease from 2027 to 2034.
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