Fred Hoiberg meets with Lauri Markkanen about his shooting slump

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DENVER — It wasn’t exactly a five-game showing that screamed rookie-of-the-year candidate.

Since a 4-for-17 game in Los Angeles more than a week ago, Lauri Markkanen was playing like a 20-year-old experiencing NBA growing pains for the first time. He shot 25 percent from the field (17-for-67) in those last five games going into the game Thursday against the Nuggets.

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So coach Fred Hoiberg decided it was time to have a meeting with Markkanen.

“He’s doing fine,’’ Hoiberg said. “He was a little bit tired, I thought, in a couple of the recent games. I thought [Sunday against] Miami was really a tough game to come back. His first experience back from a West Coast trip, to have to play the early game was very tough on him, as well as that Utah game, getting in late on a back-to-back and altitude. Tough game for him, as well.

“The important thing is I had a good meeting with Lauri when we got to the hotel [Wednesday], just the importance of rest, keeping himself as prepared as possible and just be confident. And I don’t have any doubt that he will do that.’’

Hoiberg let the seventh overall pick know that the offense was still going to run through him and not to hesitate in shooting.

Also, because opposing teams are trying to run him off the three-point line with hard close-outs, Hoiberg told Markkanen to be prepared to attack the rim.

“I told him if he continues to get those looks, it’s just a matter of time before he goes off for 40 because of the type of shooter he is,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s going to be fine because he has the right mentality of continuing to shoot even if he’s going through a type of slump, which is a great sign because it means he won’t stay in that slump for long. He’s a quiet, confident kid.’’

Finding a role

Denzel Valentine remains an inconsistent scorer with the starting group, but Hoiberg wants his second-year player to continue to develop into a playmaker.

“You see how much offense we run through Denzel,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s better when he doesn’t have to bring the ball down the floor, when he can get the ball with a live bounce. He’s doing a good job with his hesitation, he’s hitting the little floater in the paint. And he’s making the right play, whether it’s a drop-off or kick-out.

“His decision-making is progressively getting better.’’

Back at the ranch

Nikola Mirotic and Zach LaVine stayed in Chicago to practice with the Windy City Bulls. Mirotic went through the full workout, but LaVine did individual work and will get in a full practice Friday.

Expect LaVine (left ACL rehab) to continue working with the Windy City Bulls, especially because the Bulls have little practice time available next week.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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