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Former Bull Lauri Markkanen in action, but Bulls win in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — This unicorn story may finally have a happy ending.

When Lauri Markkanen (once considered the NBA’s next “unicorn”) seemed unhappy and broken in his final season with the Bulls in the 2020-21 season, the idea was to wait a couple of seasons. It seemed incredible before.

Fast forward to Monday and Markkanen opened a clinic for his former team as a member of Jazz.

Catch-and-shoot 3-pointer 90 seconds into the game, layup 30 seconds later. Then it was more long-range shooting, shot after shot, dagger after dagger.

By the time the team entered the locker room at halftime, Markkanen had scored 24 points on 9-10 shooting.

He finished with a game-high 32 points, but that wasn’t enough to beat the Bulls (9-11). 26 points.

But that didn’t detract from Markkanen’s story in Utah (12-11).

“I’ve gotten better as a player,” Markkanen said of his turnaround. “It’s grown, it’s matured, it’s changed how it looks on the court. Everything clicks. I’m not saying it wasn’t Chicago, but the style of play and the players are for it.

“Of course I want to stay in one team.

His coach agreed with much of it.

“We wanted to come here and have a fresh start here with him,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said of Markkanen’s change in his new organization. “I think he had a good year in Cleveland last year and he played great for the Finnish national team.” [past] summer. So I was trying to move it forward.

“I think he’s in a good position right now. Our group, our team, fit the way he plays and it’s great to see his confidence growing. Young in the NBA Players can overreact when they’re not as good as they think they are, some just based on the situation they’re in. It’s no one’s fault. It only takes a minute to figure out if it fits.”

Markkanen clearly understands that, but not in his last two seasons with the Bulls.

He was the 7th overall pick in the 2017 Draft because of his ability to stretch the floor as a 7-footer. He immediately fell into the “unicorn” category. .

And there were signs that he would do just that in the first two seasons.

But by his third year and his first full season under former coach Jim Boylen, Markkanen was unhappy with the way he was used. , twice that season while teammates were being interviewed, Markkanen sarcastically said in the background: “Ask us about our offense. Nice offense.”

By the time the 2020-21 season progressed under Billy Donovan’s leadership, Markkanen had lost his passion and seemed broken. , set career-lows in points averaged (13.6) and rebounds (5.3).

Mark Kanen was traded that offseason in a three-way deal that sent him to the Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. to the Trail Blazers and Derrick Jones Jr. to the Bulls.

He revived his career this summer, finding his way to Utah in a trade for Donovan Mitchell. He’s playing at All-Star level.

Donovan is not at all surprised.

“I was always a huge fan of his when I was in Oklahoma City,” said Donovan. “One of the things that happened when he came to the league was that his size, shooting ability and skill level were so unique that I think it took a little while for some of the players of that power. – Forward position to get used to guarding him.

“I think he’s gained a bit of a reputation for having to be physically tough. I don’t think it was his natural position to move him, but I think he’s a winner.”


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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