Bulls send Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn to next month’s Rising Stars Game

SHARE Bulls send Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn to next month’s Rising Stars Game
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PHILADELPHIA — Rookie Lauri Markkanen will have to cancel any plans he might’ve had for All-Star Weekend.

He and second-year point guard Kris Dunn were selected for the Rising Stars game at Staples Center on Feb. 16.

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Markkanen will team with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Frank Ntilikina on a loaded World team, while Dunn will play for the U.S. team, joining talented youngsters such as Lonzo Ball, Jaylen Brown and Donovan Mitchell.

“It’s a big honor,’’ Markkanen said Wednesday. “I didn’t even think it was possible. Like two weeks ago, I thought maybe I can be part of my first All-Star Weekend. It means a lot. Maybe I can guard Kris.’’

But Markkanen has bigger aspirations than just guarding Dunn.

“Yeah, we’re gonna get the win,’’ Markkanen said.

The teams were voted on by NBA assistant coaches, and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was thrilled with the results.

“Well, it’s really exciting for both of those guys,’’ Hoiberg said. “They worked extremely hard. Both have had great years. Both have progressively gotten better as the year has gone on, and it’s great to see them in the game. It will be fun to see them compete against each other.’’

Hopefully, Dunn will be able to participate in the game.

He was still dealing with concussion symptoms back in Chicago. There were no signs of improvement, and he missed his third consecutive game after falling on his face last Wednesday against the Warriors.

Dunn likely will miss the game against the Lakers on Friday at the United Center, and his availability for the UC matinee Sunday against the Bucks was iffy at best.

As for Markkanen, the Rising Stars game will be another opportunity for the seventh overall pick to showcase his talents.

“I think with Lauri, the true fan has an appreciation for everything he does on the basketball floor,’’ Hoiberg said. “I think he’s one of the more versatile players, especially as a 7-footer.

‘‘He can score from all over the floor. You look at that game he had at [Madison Square] Garden, the world’s most famous arena. He just goes out and has eight threes, an absolute highlight-reel dunk. He continues to show more and more things every time he steps on the floor.’’

More “Baby Unicorn’’

Hoiberg has put even more responsibility on Markkanen’s shoulders, installing a package in which he’ll take the ball up the floor and distribute.

The move comes in the wake of the Pelicans pressuring point guard Jerian Grant midway through the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ double-overtime loss Monday. Hoiberg wants another ballhandling option.

“[Markkanen] does so many little things,’’ Hoiberg said. “He continues to get better and better, and he’s got a very bright future. We all think he’s going to be a special, special player.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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