Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player and a first-time All-Star last season, received high praise last week from Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.
“He’s a great, great young player,” Carlisle said of Markkanen. “He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to (Dirk) Nowitzki.”
Carlisle, of course, coached the Mavericks in 2011, when Nowitzki led Dallas to its first and only title.
“(He’s) a seven-footer that can really stretch the game out and play inside,” Carlisle continued. “He’s underrated as an athlete. And his length is really special and the efficiency with which he catches the ball and gets rid of it, shoots it — he just like catches it up here and just goes like this from like anywhere.
“People have tried to put bigger guys on him, smaller guys on him, he shoots over the smaller guys, he’s out-crafts the big guys. So, he’s tough. He’s a much tougher player than what you may think looking at him. He’s tall, slender, angular, but he’s rugged. So he’s a major, major problem.”
While Markkanen has had another excellent season, with averages that are extremely similar to last season, he also missed 10 games due to injury and the competition for All-Star spots in the West will be fierce, Larsen notes. For his part, Markkanen says he hopes he makes it in.
“I think it can get it, I’ve just got to keep grinding. It would mean a lot obviously,” Markkanen said, per Larsen. “Winning games is what helps us, so I’m just doing trying to do my part to get us there, and hopefully I get in. It would definitely be a big thing for me.”
Here’s more from the Northwest:
- Both Thunder guard/forward Josh Giddey and head coach Mark Daigneault replied with “no comment” when they were asked about the investigation into Giddey being closed by the Newport Beach Police Department, as Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman relays (Twitter links). Giddey was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, but he won’t face criminal charges due to a lack of evidence.
- Denver handed Boston its first home loss of the season in what could be a potential preview of the 2024 NBA Finals, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic, who argues the Nuggets should still be considered the favorite to defend their title. Tim Bontemps of ESPN has additional quotes after the high-intensity matchup between two of the top teams in the league.
- No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson sustained a nasal contusion in Friday’s victory over Indiana, causing him to leave the game and not return (Twittter link via the Trail Blazers), but head coach Chauncey Billups was relieved the 19-year-old rookie didn’t have a concussion, as Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report tweets. Henderson was active for Sunday’s game vs. the Lakers.