Why Lauri Markkanen’s demotion could have future ramifications for Bulls



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Kris Dunn has not received a qualifying offer and is in Atlanta. Wendell Carter is in Orlando. Chandler Hutchison and Daniel Gafford are in Washington.

And Lauri Markkanen is now coming off the bench — within a year of contract, to boot.

It’s not like Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley do not use the work that John Paxson and Gar Forman left them. Zach LaVine is an All-Star. Thad Young and TSatoran sauce begin and play crucial veteran roles. Although Coby White missed his first NBA game on Monday night with a sore neck, there is still a valuable reserve.

But with every passing day into this review season, especially when it comes to old lottery picks or the return of Jimmy Butler’s craft, the roster is being redesigned.

Markkanen became the latest casualty, stepping off the bench for the second time in 194 career games and the first time not making his debut after a long injury absence.

In a nod to Daniel Theis making his Bulls debut, coach Billy Donovan paired a shooter with a fielder. This meant that Young started next Nikola Vučević and Markkanen played mainly with Theis.

Markkanen finished with 13 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes, solid numbers for the reserve minutes. But a season that started with Markkanen in search of long-term security has now put him on hold in trade talks, stepping off the bench and heading for restricted free agency.

I am a team guy. I understand that, ”Markkanen said. “And sure, it’s kinda – what was it, my second game on the bench?” The pace of the game is therefore a little different. But I’ll do whatever I can.

“I mean, I feel like we’re all competitors and you always want to start. I feel like this is what everyone is feeling. And I know I’m a starter in this league. But I will play my part. I know Coach has a lot to deal with with the new guys coming in and so it’s going to be an adjustment.

Donovan said Markkanen handled the “super” demotion, calling him “incredibly professional and all about the team.” He cited the need for “proper spacing” so that “teams don’t get loaded” on the Bulls as the main reason, while also mentioning the desire for rim protection with both pairs.

And Donovan also looked like a trainer willing to try these pairs for a while.

“Obviously, I think our team has changed. We have four really unique and good players in the frontcourt, ”said Donovan. “I just thought Lauri is a guy because of his ability to shoot and his skill level that can play with any of those three guys. And I thought from an experience point of view and a physical point of view, throwing Thad in there because of how Vooch can spread the floor, it lets these guys play against each other.

While emphasizing that he can play with anyone, Vučević largely agree.

I think Thad and I might be doing a little better together on the pitch. We’re obviously both very experienced players so it’s easier for us because we’ve played before and I think our games are going a bit better, ”he said, citing their time with the 76ers. . “But also, with Lauri in the second unit, it also gives the second unit more offensive power and helps. We both also love to pop, so sometimes it doesn’t work out that well.

“I think Coach is going to try different alignments and see how it works. I think it’s also hard for some guys to have to play a little different role or different rotations. As much as this is new to me, it is also for everyone here. We all need to understand it and get comfortable with each other.

It’s hard to imagine Markkanen getting to grips with not getting started. Of course, he’s a team guy first. But he also turned down a lucrative contract extension to bet on himself. He is posting strong career numbers and expects a great year, without closing shattering losses with Devon Dotson, Cristiano Felicio, Javonte Green and Troy Brown Jr.

At least that night, Markkanen said all the right things. But this development will do little to quell the idea that it might be somewhere else when free will ends. After all, teams don’t pay a lot of money for reserves.

“I mean, he had his reasons. And like I said, I haven’t interviewed him at all in the whole year. I trust Billy, ”said Markkanen. “I know I can start and that’s how I played. But I’m not really going to do anything to hurt the team. I think we are all tired of losing and we are just trying to improve. I mean, it hasn’t worked out too well for us so we need to change something.

“It’s disappointing personally, but it’s part of it and I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team and control what I can control.”

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