Lauri Markkanen makes his preseason debut in a loss to the Pelicans
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The Bulls continued to learn about their prized rookie Sunday.
Specifically, Lauri Markkanen still isn’t shy.
Making his preseason debut in a Bulls uniform, Markkanen maintained a mentality he displayed in Summer League and EuroBasket 2017: The only bad shot is the one he doesn’t take.
“I’m not lacking in confidence,’’ Markkanen said after the Bulls’ 108-95 loss to the Pelicans. “The shots weren’t falling [Sunday], but get back to the gym. I’m not worried about that.’’
Neither was his coach, despite his new big man shooting 1-for-9 from the field, including 0-for-6 from three-point range.
“That’s one thing that I think everybody loves about Lauri,’’ Fred Hoiberg said. “I’ve talked about the Summer League. My favorite game was the one where he took 10 threes. He didn’t make any of them, but he kept shooting it. And then the next game he bounced back with a big game, knocking down shots.
“We want him aggressive. When he’s open, we want him shooting the ball. He’s one of the best shooters on this basketball team.’’
Getting over back spasms that sidelined him for more than a week, Markkanen was on a minutes watch, but he finally checked into the game at the start of the second quarter.
He wasted very little time testing his range, launching a three-point attempt the first time he touched the ball. His first points came on two free throws, and his first basket came on a layup with 8:32 left in the quarter.
His first “Welcome to the NBA, rook’’ moment came about two minutes later when Jrue Holiday blocked the 7-footer’s jumper attempt.
By the time the first half ended, Markkanen had made sure to get his money’s worth, going 1-for-7 from the field, including 0-for-4 from long distance, in just over eight minutes.
Markkanen checked back in late in the third and quickly was introduced to an Anthony Davis layup as the Pelicans started distancing themselves from the home team.
His assignment wouldn’t get any easier, with Hoiberg moving him to center at the start of the fourth against DeMarcus Cousins. “Boogie’’ wasted no time taking advantage of the seventh overall pick, scoring a basket and drawing a foul with 9:01 left in the game, putting the Pelicans up 84-76. With 8:30 left, Cousins was at it again, backing Markkanen down, spinning him and then slamming it home for a 10-point lead.
Hoiberg called a timeout and pulled the plug on the Markkanen vs. Cousins matchup.
“He didn’t show any fear, he didn’t back down playing against arguably the best center in the league,’’ Hoiberg said. “We wanted to play him at the four and the five, and we did that.’’
And while Markkanen knows Davis and Cousins got the better of him, he considered it a great lesson.
“I didn’t even realize [Cousins was] so strong, so it was fun to compete against him,’’ Markkanen said. “It showed that I’ve got to work on some things, and it was a good learning experience.’’
As for the rest of Markkanen’s teammates, Hoiberg continued to show his hand on a possible starting group for the regular season, again beginning the game with Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Paul Zipser, Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez.
“I like what that unit has brought us,’’ Hoiberg said.
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