CHICAGO – When being asked questions about one of the main pieces of the Bulls’ rebuild and the struggles he’s endured recently, Jim Boylen felt like he had to make a revelation.
“It’s a weird injury,” said the Bulls’ head coach of Lauri Markkanen. “It’s not enough to keep you out, stop your momentum. But it’s enough to influence, maybe, how you do things and how you play.”
Boylen revealed that Markkanen has a sore oblique that has hampered him over the last two weeks and has led to some inconsistent play in November. His scoring average from November dropped from 17.4 to 12.4 this month with his rebounds falling from 9.8 to just five over the last 11 days.
It’s not what many expected out of Markkanen as he finally got through a preseason healthy after missing the first month-and-a-half of the 2018-2019 season. The forward spoke after Boylen revealed the injury, but Markkanen wasn’t about to make excuses.
“I know I can play better. Maybe our record would be a little bit better if we played on our own level,” said Markkanend. “Of course, like I said, I’m going to look in the mirror and see what I can do better and take responsibility for that. But I know as a team we can do a lot better as well.”
One thing that could be related to the injury is Markkanen’s chances to make plays. In October he was taking 15 shots per game but that’s now dropped to just 9.4 so far in the month of November. Once again, the forward shook off the notion that the Bulls should design more plays to get him into a better position to score.
“I can play a lot better than I’ve been playing. First of all, I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror,” said Markkanen. “What can I do better? We’ve got a lot of guys this year that can score the ball so it might be a different guy every night.”
As the Boylen tries to figure that out as the season progresses, he expressed his admiration for Markkanen’s ability to play through the nagging injury to contribute where he can.
“He’s fighting through and injury and he hasn’t stopped practicing, he hasn’t stopped working out. He’s fought through it, which I think is growth for him to fight through some of that. He’s never complained, he’s never whined, he’s never…’well, I don’t know if I can do this.’ It’s ‘Coach, I’m gonna do the best I can, I’m gonna give you everything I have.’
“So when you have a mentality like that, good things happen for you.”
Maybe a few more can take place once Markkenen’s feeling a bit better.