Not everyone made it through customs late Tuesday night.
After the loss to the Raptors, the Bulls decided to leave Lauri Markkanen, who was battling fatigue, in Toronto. Markkanen went to a local hospital for some tests, spent the night in Canada, then flew back to Chicago on Wednesday morning.
Coach Jim Boylen said Markkanen was already in his office by 2 p.m., pleading his case to play against Portland.
“He’d like to play,’’ Boylen said.
By the time the game — a 118-98 loss to the Trail Blazers — was over, however, the Bulls announced that Markkanen would be shut down for the rest of the season.
“His tests from his fatigue episode in the first half in Toronto came back all positive, but we’re going to be cautious with him these last 10 days,’’ Boylen said.
The major concern was a rapid heart rate, and while initial tests have all come back OK, the team wants to do additional testing in the next 10 days to make sure.
So the Finnish 7-footer will end up averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 52 games. His February, however, is what the Bulls will be pinning their hopes on. Markkanen averaged 26 points and 12.2 rebounds in a 10-day span, giving the organization a glimpse of future heights.
As far as Year 2, however, it was about protecting Markkanen from himself at this point.
“He’s fatigued and worn out, and we’re not going to take a chance,’’ Boylen said. “I noticed it during the first half [of the Toronto game].’’
Since being selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen has missed his share of games, whether with a back issue or an elbow injury, but this episode was a first, Boylen said.
“I think it’s always serious when a guy doesn’t feel well,’’ Boylen said. “We always take those things to heart. He’s a big part of what we’re building, an important piece to the future. He’s a young, developing guy. As much as we think every moment on the floor helps us, we also have to protect him and his future.’’
Center Robin Lopez agreed.
“You want to have everybody out there, obviously,’’ Lopez said after the latest loss. “It’s sad, but we’ve all been there at some point in our athletic careers. But the games don’t go away.’’
As far as the rest of the walking wounded for the Bulls, the news was only slightly better. Besides Markkanen, the Bulls also were without regulars Otto Porter Jr. (right shoulder), Zach LaVine (thigh, right patellar tendinitis) and Kris Dunn (back).
That meant a starting unit of Wayne Selden Jr., Lopez, Shaquille Harrison, Brandon Sampson and Antonio Blakeney. That’s not exactly a lot of resistance for a 47-27 Portland team to have to sweat over, and that’s how it played out, with the Trail Blazers jumping out to a 27-14 lead in the first quarter and never looking back.
Harrison led the Bulls with a career-high 21 points, but the bigger concern for Boylen was when — or if — he would start getting his regulars back.
Porter — like Markkanen — sounds like a player who won’t be seen in a game again this season.
“Every moment this team can be together, that we can get to know each other, play together, see who fits with who, is important,’’ Boylen said. “We wish we were at full strength, but we’re not. As you know, in the NBA, nobody is feeling sorry for us, so we gotta move on.’’