The Bulls’ healthy roster has forward Lauri Markkanen feeling confident
Markkanen and guard Zach LaVine are considered the pillars of this team moving forward and will begin a season healthy together for the first time since the rebuild started.
Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen swears it has looked good in practice. But what will it look like in games that matter?
The combination of Markkanen and guard Zach LaVine has had far more incompletes than passing grades in the last two seasons. Blame it on injuries, with the two seldom playing together for long stints since they each arrived for the 2017-18 season.
But Markkanen said he is looking for big things from them when the regular season tips off Wednesday against the Hornets in Charlotte, North Carolina.
‘‘I’m not worried,’’ Markkanen said. ‘‘We’ve been on the same team and practiced the whole time. We’ve come along really well. Now it’s just a matter of taking it across the street [to the United Center]. I think we’ve had good periods of time, but the next step for us is just doing it consistently.’’
In Markkanen’s rookie season, LaVine still was sidelined by his recovery from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and wasn’t ready to return for months. Last season, Markkanen went down with a severe elbow injury in training camp and didn’t return until early December.
Both are healthy to start this season, so there is excitement about that.
‘‘No promises, but that’s the goal, for sure,’’ Markkanen said when asked about a playoff push.
Only forward Chandler Hutchison (hamstring) will be out for the opener, and coach Jim Boylen said he thought Hutchison would be back soon.
Beginning the season with four of five games on the road is usually a daunting task for an NBA team. But Boylen was leaning on his days working for Larry Bird with the Pacers to put it in perspective.
‘‘I think it’s great,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘We get on that plane and close the door, it’s a safe place for us. We go down there, it’s us on the road. I love that mentality. It’s a really good thing. But if we were having a home opener, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing.
‘‘We’re going to play them as they come. I worked for Larry Bird in Indiana, and he’d always say: ‘It’s 41 home and 41 road. Get ready to play.’ That’s what we’re going to try to do.’’
Veteran forward Otto Porter Jr. said he’s feeling pretty good about where the Bulls are as a team heading into the regular season. Well, besides their offensive spacing.
‘‘There’s always room for improvement,’’ Porter said. ‘‘We’ve just got to make sure we get our spacing down and transition it. Especially running this multi-ballhandler system, we want to make sure we have space. That’s a big thing.’’
The Bulls announced the signing of former DePaul guard Max Strus to a two-way contract, rounding out the roster for the start of the season.
The 6-5 Strus, a native of southwest suburban Hickory Hills, went undrafted in June, then signed a deal with the Celtics during the preseason. He averaged five points, two rebounds and 1.5 assists in four preseason games with them.