clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen talks ‘comeback’ with a new head coach

The former No. 7 overall pick from the 2017 draft admitted that he felt underutilized in Jim Boylen’s offensive system, but in taking accountability for a down year, he’s also looking forward to a new system to work with under Billy Donovan.

“[This upcoming season is] really important,” the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen said. “I’ve got to show people that I can come back from the down year I had and it didn’t put me down at all.”
“[This upcoming season is] really important,” the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen said. “I’ve got to show people that I can come back from the down year I had and it didn’t put me down at all.”
AP

In the months before his firing, former Bulls coach Jim Boylen told anyone within earshot that he thought he’d be returning for the 2020-21 season.

But as forward Lauri Markkanen shared in a call with reporters Monday, “I read the internet just like everybody else.”

First, Boylen was reported to be out. Then there was a growing feeling among players and around the Bulls’ facilities that he could be back. When the new front office finally decided to move on in August, Markkanen had become kind of numb to it, he admits.

“I was at the practice facility working out when I heard the news,” he recalled. “I knew there were talks about it. Things didn’t go our way this year, but that’s on all of us. Again, nothing against him. I wish him the best, and we move on. I didn’t really have a reaction.”

The Bulls’ first-round pick from 2017 is numb no longer — ready to counter the doubts about him after a down season and eager to begin working with new coach Billy Donovan. The usually stoic big man is vowing a comeback.

“There’s a lot of things we thought would have gone better last year, but of course I’m going to look at myself,” Markkanen said. “And I can always go and play with more energy, and I can always rebound better, and I think that’s what gets me going. That’s one of the main things, and it just pushed me this summer. I’ve been going hard, and I’m really excited about the upcoming year and think I can make the ‘comeback,’ you know.

“[This upcoming season is] really important. I’ve got to show people that I can come back from the down year I had and it didn’t put me down at all.”

The Bulls have been scrimmaging in their own team bubble for just under a week, but Markkanen has been putting in work since the coronavirus effectively ended the Bulls’ season in March. Initially it was individual work, but then he returned to Finland to play with some of his international teammates. He has been back in Chicago the last month for this voluntary minicamp.

The player who was far too inconsistent last season — and at times sounded unhappy to even be in a Bulls uniform — is gone. A new front office, new coach and new offensive system could go a long way in making sure that guy doesn’t return.

“I do think I can be more productive, more versatile than I was last year,” Markkanen said, referring to how he was underused in Boylen’s offense. “Not all times, but there were times I felt like I was just used as spacing the floor. But I think just talking to Billy, I’m really confident this year — just by one conversation — in how he uses players to their strengths. So I’m excited.’’

The Bulls should be, too. If they again have the Markkanen who averaged 26 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in February 2019, rather than the enigma who averaged 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds last season, it would be like adding a proven free agent without writing a new check.

“I’m just trying to look forward and be positive,” Markkanen said. “I’m just really excited to work with Coach Donovan from this point on now.”