Lauri Markkanen breaks another rookie record on final night of Bulls’ season
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Rookie Lauri Markkanen accomplished and proved everything the Bulls had hoped for and then some this season, but he had mixed emotions Wednesday after the conclusion of his first NBA season.
Markkanen rewrote the history books. In January, he became the fastest to 100 three-point baskets. On Monday, Markkanen upped the ante and became the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand in 1999-2000 to score at least 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds.
And in the Bulls’ season finale Wednesday, Markkanen broke another rookie record. He made his 145th three-pointer in the third quarter, breaking Kirk Hinrich’s 2004 record. Fans near the baseline chanted “You’re the future” at Markkanen after he accomplished the feat.
But despite all his accomplishments, Markkanen was still sad the season was over and “pissed off” the team missed the playoffs.
“That’s just the type of kid he is,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg spoke highly of Markkanen’s character and described him as poised, composed and tough, especially in high-pressure situations. Even when it was clear the Bulls were out of playoff contention, Markkanen never stepped off the gas.
“He’s not really an individual guy, he’s all about the team,” Hoiberg said. “That’s been the most impressive thing about Lauri. He really hasn’t forced the issue at all. He’s gone out and played the right way.”
And that’s exactly what Hoiberg wanted to see from one of his young core guys.
Markkanen finished the season averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from beyond the arc.
In Hoiberg’s exit meeting with Markkanen on Tuesday, he told the 20-year-old Finn what he expected from him next season.
“It’s an important offseason for Lauri,” Hoiberg said. “And you’re going to see a better player next year.”
High expectations for 2018-19
Next year at this time, Zach LaVine doesn’t think he’ll be cleaning out his locker and putting his belongings in a plastic trash bag. He believes the Bulls, who finished 27-55, will be playoff-bound.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to because we’re talented enough to,” LaVine said after the Bulls’ 119-87 loss to the Pistons.
“When we put that work in and with that chemistry, there’s no reason why we can’t be and make that jump. I’m not saying we’re going to be competing for a championship next year or anything like that, but there’s no reason next year at this time we shouldn’t be in that playoff run.”
This was LaVine’s bounce-back season from knee surgery. He played 24 games, averaging a team-high 16.7 points per game. Although he sat out the last 13 games with tendinitis in his left knee, LaVine plans to come back healthy and strong next season.
“I’m trying to be the best me … I’m not going to stop working until I’m an elite player in this league,” LaVine said. “I feel like I have the talent to, the drive to, and with that, you have to help the team and they have to help you.”