Now things are about to get interesting.
To say that Lauri Markkanen entered this season with a lot to prove is a major undersell, especially considering the Bulls organization and the forward’s camp couldn’t even agree on anything close to an extension price.
Markkanen’s response was to take an almost “bet on myself’’ approach, and through the first three games he seemed to do just that, averaging 20 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. All losses, however.
Then the calf flares up in Washington, Markkanen is put on the shelf, and then stays on the shelf when the league’s coronavirus protocol red flags him through contract tracing.
What’s happened since?
The Bulls won three of their next four without the 7-footer, and then went toe-to-toe with both Los Angeles teams last weekend.
Along the way, coach Billy Donovan has developed a closing unit of Coby White, Zach LaVine, Garrett Temple, Thad Young and — when the back spasms aren’t acting up — Otto Porter Jr.
But now Markkanen has been cleared to practice, is getting his conditioning back, and is expected to return to the starting lineup on Friday when the team plays in Oklahoma City. What Donovan has to decide is how many minutes Markkanen earns in returning to the lineup, and more importantly, does he trust the fourth-year player enough for closing time is the game is within reach?
As is his modus operandi, Donovan doesn’t show his…