A Revitalized Lauri Markkanen Wants to be in Chicago for the "Long-term"

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A Revitalized Lauri Markkanen Wants to be in Chicago for the “Long-term”

Chicago Bulls

And the award for most disappointing 2019-20 season goes to … Lauri Markkanen! 

Year 3 was supposed to be Markkanen’s breakout. Several NBA analysts tabbed The Finnisher as a sneaky All-Star pick, someone who would continue the tremendous play he flashed in the February of 2019. Things started out promising with a 35-point, 17-rebound performance on opening night against the Charlotte Hornets. Sure, the Bulls may have lost the game, but Markkanen played at the peak of his powers. The Finnisher was on a mission … or so we thought.

Night one would be Markkanen’s season-high in points and tie his season-high in rebounds. For the next 49 games, he pretty much looked like a shell of his former self. Injury rumors came in and out of the conversation, while Markkanen’s confidence disappeared faster than a cookie in Cookie Monster’s hand. Watching Markkanen felt like watching an ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan on repeat in the background. He played like a sad, defeated puppy who just needed some real love and appreciation.

Fortunately, like many of those tear-jerking doggos, Markkanen may have finally fallen into the arms of an angel. Head coach Billy Donovan is the Bulls new game manager, and it sounds like all it took was one phone call to give Markkanen a much-needed confidence boost.

“Just getting me into actions, coming off ball screens. He talked about posting up right away and just being involved,” Markkanen told NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson and fellow reporters at a Zoom media session on Monday. “He kind of asked me where do I want the ball and what do I want to do with it. I’m excited to work with him. Obviously, I haven’t met him yet. But I got a good feeling out of our one conversation.”

Markkanen didn’t shy away from commenting on his less-than-stellar play during the 2019-20 season. The goal to get things back on track this offseason is clear, and he sounds motivated by the opportunity to shut up some haters.

I know … what do we expect him to say? The guy isn’t going to come out and tell reporters he doesn’t hold himself to a higher standard. But taking this level of responsibility does show maturity and understanding. He hasn’t thrown Boylen under the bus for last season’s woes, which he could’ve easily done, and he seems to have a good idea of what he needs to do this season to flip the script. Telling Donovan about his urge to get on the move and play a more involved role (you know, rather than standing behind the 3-point line waiting for the pass) is his first step toward a bounce-back season. He must recognize his strengths and assert himself as one of the team’s leaders, and it sounds like that’s currently his train of thought.

In other news, Markkanen also said he would prefer to have Chicago be his long-term home.

At the end of this season, Lauri Markkanen will become eligible to sign an extension on his rookie contract. At the same time, he’s already due roughly $6.7 million in the final year of his rookie deal (2020-2021), with an estimated $9M qualifying offer in place for 2021-22. Which basically means he can either sign an extension with the Bulls this offseason or hit the market as a restricted free agent (alongside an absolutely loaded class of players) in 2021. So whether or not a deal gets done this offseason will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow.

Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley have both expressed a belief in Markkanen’s abilities before, so I’m sure the ongoing group workouts have been a great opportunity for these two to figure out where the 23-year-old’s true potential lies. According to Markkanen, he has spent plenty of time with both Karnisovas and Eversley already, and their relationship is off to a good start.

When all is said and done, though, Markkanen’s extension talks over the next couple of months will be in the hands of his agent, as it sounds like Markkanen will stay locked-in on what’s most important, playing better basketball. Fine by me.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.