Forward Lauri Markkanen wants to stay a Bull, and the feeling’s mutual

The Bulls have until Dec. 21 to get an extension done with Markkanen, or he’s headed for restricted free agent status next offseason.

SHARE Forward Lauri Markkanen wants to stay a Bull, and the feeling’s mutual
Lauri Markkanen says he is focused on preparing for the season and not his contract status.

Lauri Markkanen says he is focused on preparing for the season and not his contract status.

AP

Boston’s Jayson Tatum inked his over a year ago.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Miami’s Bam Adebayo did a bit more recently.

The draft class of 2017 is starting to get those big extension paydays, while the Bulls and Lauri Markkanen bob and weave through a slow game of chicken.

Neither side is to blame. The new regime would love to make sure Markkanen is truly a foundation piece who can eventually reach unicorn status as a 7-footer with multiple dominant skills, while Markkanen hopes his organization has faith in him reaching that level.

There’s the stalemate, one that has a Dec. 21 deadline in order to avoid Markkanen being a restricted free agent next summer.

“Obviously, I see the other guys getting [extensions], but like I said, I’m not worried about that,” Markkanen said on Monday. “I’m going into the season with high expectations [for myself] no matter what happened last year and I’m really motivated to get out there and perform at a high level.

“Of course I check in every now and then [with my agent], but like I said, it’s not something I think of. I don’t want to put too much effort . . . in my day thinking about things I can’t control. Of course he kind of keeps me in the loop. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Hopefully they’re going to come to an agreement. I can’t say how likely that is. But like I’ve said before, I really want to be here for the long term so I’m putting some pressure on my agent to get it done.”

He would have a much better case had the 2019-20 season not happened. Rather than take a jump in Year 3 of his NBA journey, Markkanen actually regressed in almost every way.

And while it would be easy to blame the former coaching staff or the offensive scheme that just didn’t fit last year’s roster, Markkanen at least took the high road.

“I’m the guy who always looks in the mirror first before complaining, so I’ve been trying to look at what went wrong and trying to stay even more active on the floor and just being involved,” Markkanen said. “Move a lot without the ball to make myself available, and that way kind of work my way through it.”

As far as where the organization stands with training camp starting, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas wants Markkanen to stay in a Bulls uniform. Of course, always at the right price.

“I mean, we like Lauri and we would like him to be part of this organization for a long time, so the conversations will continue until the season starts,” Karnisovas said. “The deadline is when the season starts. We’re going to make every effort to get this done.”

Shots fired?

There’s no question that guard Zach LaVine was all for a coaching change, with the Bulls moving on from Jim Boylen. Just how much?

Asked about the new faces around the Advocate Center now, LaVine responded, “Without getting into too much stuff, it’s a different energy. . . . I see them every morning. I get here around 8 o’clock and they’re already in the gym. They’re on the court with you. They’re talking to you about not just basketball, but personal life things. What things do you like to run, what don’t you like? They want you to be up front. They’re willing to change and hear players’ opinions, so that’s something that’s been different than in the past.”

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