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Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen is playing a sound-proof game against criticism

The third-year big man knows Bulls fans aren’t thrilled with his start, but he made it clear that “people outside this building only see the stat lines. They don’t know what really goes into it.’’ 

“I’m not going to pretend I don’t hear anything, but I don’t pay attention to that,” the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen said. “People don’t know what really goes into it, they don’t know what your position is. It’s easy to block out.’’
“I’m not going to pretend I don’t hear anything, but I don’t pay attention to that,” the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen said. “People don’t know what really goes into it, they don’t know what your position is. It’s easy to block out.’’
Brandon Dill/AP

Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen isn’t anti-fan.

But he is anti-noise.

He’s aware of the growing criticism and concerns about his game, but he considers the outside views a waste of time and energy.

“Obviously, you hear stuff,’’ Markkanen said after practice Thursday. “I’m not going to pretend I don’t hear anything, but I don’t pay attention to that. People don’t know what really goes into it; they don’t know what your position is. It’s easy to block out.’’

OK, that’s simple for an athlete to say, but let’s call his bluff.

“I’m serious; it’s easy,’’ Markkanen said. “You know the hours you put in during the offseason, and you know the work you did. It just doesn’t always go your way. Let the work that I did be my confidence that I can move from this, and I can do it. The people outside this building only see the stat lines. They don’t know what really goes into it, so why should I pay attention to that?’’

Fair enough, but Markkanen should pay attention to some of it. After all, the organization admitted that the entire offseason was based on Zach LaVine and Markkanen being the keys to the rebuild.

Both embraced the idea on media day and bragged about how they welcomed the pressure.

Then the regular season happened.

LaVine’s scoring, rebounding and assists are down from last season through 15 games, but he at least has had some highlight moments.

Markkanen has had a few moments, but they can be counted on one hand. There was his 35-point, 17-rebound game opening night in Charlotte, a bunch of bad in between and then Wednesday.

In the victory against the Pistons, Markkanen scored 24 points — his second-highest output of the season — and went 3-for-4 from three-point range after struggling from long distance all season (29.1 percent).

“Hopefully, it starts things up, but I never get too high or too low,’’ Markkanen said. “Do the same work here today that we do every day, try to be the best team we can be. That’s all we can try to do.’’

Bulls fans don’t want “try,’’ however. They want do.

Specifically, they want Markkanen and LaVine to do what they were expected to in their third season together.

But they continue to play stat-line teeter-totter. In the two games that Markkanen led the Bulls in scoring, LaVine went a combined 9-for-28 for 21 points.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed, and they’ve hashed it out.

“We’ve talked about it, and we both — I don’t think Zach is at his best — I just think he’s putting the work in, and it’s only a matter of time before he also gets it going consistently,’’ Markkanen said. “Everyone is going to have off nights, but the one thing I love about Zach is he’s going to bounce back.

‘‘It’s just a matter of time before we’re going to turn this around.’’

What if they don’t? What if they never find that common ground as the season goes on despite having complementary skills? Does one have to go in a trade?

That’s not even up for debate internally at this point, a source said, but roster decisions are always fluid.

Markkanen, for one, is not ready to give up on the plan.

“We both can do multiple things,’’ Markkanen said. “We get into a two-man game, we should be really difficult to guard.

‘‘We’ve just got to do it consistently. We’ll get there.’’