Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen, mired in a shooting slump, has been playing with a sore oblique, coach Jim Boylen says

Chicago Tribune Sports 0 month ago
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen dunks on the Raptors' Marc Gasol in the first half on Oct. 26, 2019, at the United Center. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen dunks during the first half against the Hawks on Oct. 17, 2019, at the United Center. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen waits for play to resume in the first half against the Pelicans on Oct. 9, 2019, at the United Center. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, and teammate Zach LaVine answer questions during media day on Sept. 30, 2019, at the Advocate Center. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Wizards forward Jabari Parker and Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) talk in the first quarter at the United Center on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen waits to be introduced in the starting lineup for a game against the Wizards at the United Center on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls coach Jim Boylen talks with forward Lauri Markkanen (24) in the second half against the Lakers at the United Center on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen reacts on the bench during the second half against the 76ers at the United Center on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen gets a shot off before the Hawks' Vince Carter can block the shot during the first half at the United Center on Sunday, March 3, 2019. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) tries to get to the basket in the first half of a game against the Wizards at the United Center on Saturday, February 9, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen signs a bobblehead in his likeness for a fan before a game against the Clippers at the United Center on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen asks for a high-five from a baby before a game against the Clippers at the United Center on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) drains a 3-pointer in the second half against the Hawks at the United Center on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen flies in for a dunk in the first half against the Hawks at the United Center on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Magic forward Jonathan Isaac grabs a rebound past Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen during the first half on Jan. 2, 2019, at the United Center. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen drives to the basket in the second half against the Nets on Dec. 19, 2018, at the United Center. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen sprints to the locker room after a victory over the Magic on Dec. 21, 2018, at the United Center. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is congratulated after hitting a 3-pointer in the second half against the Magic on Dec. 21, 2018, at the United Center. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (8) guards Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) during the second half at the United Center on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) celebrates with his teammates after scoring the go-ahead basket on a drive to the hoop late in the second half against the Thunder at the United Center on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen walks on the court before the Bulls play the Spurs at the United Center on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen laughs during the second half against the Raptors at the United Center on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen gestures to a teammate during player introductions before a game against the Pacers at the United Center on Friday, Nov, 2, 2018. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Lauri Markkanen, left, and Zach LaVine pose for a photograph while sitting on the bench in the second half of a preseason game against the Pacers at the United Center on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen poses for a photo during media day Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at the Advocate Center. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forwards Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and Lauri Markkanen pose for a photo during media day Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at the Advocate Center. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen laughs during media day Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at the Advocate Center. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen poses for photos during media day Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 at the Advocate Center. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) drives in the second half against the Celtics, Friday, April 6, 2018, in Boston. (Elise Amendola / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) flashes a smile on the bench in the second half of a game against the Pistons at the United Center on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) reacts to being called for a foul during the second half of a game against the Pistons at the United Center, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (Jeff Haynes / AP)
Bulls guard Cameron Payne, left, forward Lauri Markkanen (24) and forward David Nwaba (11) laugh on the bench during the second half of their game against the Hornets, at the United Center on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen drives as Wizards forward Mike Scott guards during the second half Sunday, April 1, 2018, at the United Center. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) looks for a shot against Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the first half, Friday, March 30, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, right, dribbles as Rockets guard Eric Gordon defends during the first half of a game Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Houston. (Eric Christian Smith / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, right, drives against Bucks forward Jabari Parker during the second half of a game Friday, March 23, 2018, at the United Center. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
Bulls forward Denzel Valentine, left, guard Kris Dunn and forward Lauri Markkanen sit on the bench during a game against the Cavaliers at the United Center on Saturday, March 17, 2018. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen dunks against the Hawks during the second half Sunday, March 11, 2018, in Atlanta. (John Amis / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24), after making a three pointer against the Memphis Grizzlies, during the second half at the United Center, in Chicago, on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24), dunks in front of Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green (0), during the first half of their game, at the United Center, in Chicago, on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune)
The Bulls' Lauri Markkanen, left, looks to pass under pressure from the 76ers' Joel Embiid during the first half at the United Center, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP)
The Nets' Spencer Dinwiddie, left, talks with the Bulls' Lauri Markkanen after Dinwiddie defeated Markkanen in the final round of the Skills Challenge, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen competes in the 2018 Skills Challenge at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 17, 2018. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
Joel Embiid of the 76ers and Lauri Markkanen of the Bulls compete in the 2018 Skills Challenge at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 17, 2018. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)
With the Bulls' Lauri Markkanen providing support, Jamal Murray #27 of the World Team shoots a jump shot over Dennis Smith Jr. #1 of the U.S. Team during the 2018 Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Game at Staples Center on February 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen of the World Team dunks during the 2018 Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Game at Staples Center on February 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen maneuvers past the defense of Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague in the third quarter at the United Center on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is fouled by Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica in the fourth quarter at the United Center on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) in the second half Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 at the United Center. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Lauri Markkanen rebounds in the second half against the Bucks on Jan. 28, 2018 at the United Center. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Lauri Markkanen passes around the Bucks' John Henson in the first half of the game on Jan. 28, 2018, at the United Center. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) dunks over Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins (0) in the first half in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Gerald Herbert / AP)
Lauri Markkanen dunks over Atlanta Hawks guard Kent Bazemore on Jan. 20, 2018. (LESSER/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock / LESSER/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Lauri Markkanen dunks over the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 20, 2018. (LESSER/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock / LESSER/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen dunks against the Warriors at the United Center on Jan. 17, 2018. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) takes a shot over Warriors forward Kevon Looney (5) during the first half at the United Center on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen puts up a shot past Heat center Kelly Olynyk at the United Center on Jan. 15, 2018. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) celebrates making a basket in the first half against the Heat at the United Center on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) scores on a layup in the second half against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center on Saturday, January 13, 2018. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Lauri Markkanen celebrates his three point shot in the second half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 10, 2018. (Elsa / Getty Images)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) warms up before the Bulls faced the Houston Rockets at the United Center on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Lauri Markkanen shoots the ball against the Indiana Pacers on January 6, 2018. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)
The Bulls' Lauri Markkanen (24) hangs on the basket after a dunk against the Mavericks' Harrison Barnes (40) on January 5, 2018. (Rodger Mallison / TNS)
Lauri Markkanen fouls Kyle Lowry at the United Center on January 3, 2018. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) shoots a 3-pointer in the second half against the Toronto Raptors at the United Center. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen has a laugh on the bench in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center on Monday, January 1, 2018. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen takes a breather in the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center on Monday, January 1, 2018. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) stands on the floor in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center on Monday, January 1, 2018. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) and Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) walk off the court after beating the Indiana Pacers at the United Center on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen attacks the basket as Pacers center Myles Turner defends in the first half at the United Center on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen celebrates after dunking during the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at the United Center on Wednesday Dec. 27, 2017. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
The Bulls' Lauri Markkanen shoots over Celtics' Al Horford during the second quarter on Dec. 23, 2017. (Winslow Townson / AP)
Bulls' Lauri Markkanen tries to pass the ball during the second half on Dec. 21, 2017 in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak / AP)
Bulls' Lauri Markkanen drives against the Cavaliers' Channing Frye in the second half against Cleveland on Dec. 21, 2017. (Tony Dejak / AP)
Lauri Markkanen drives to the basket past Jose Calderon Cavaliers during the first half on December 21, 2017 in Cleveland. (Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) takes a shot during the first half against the Magic at the United Center, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) returns to the lineup after missing games due to back spasms. He is seen during the second half of a game against the 76ers at the United Center, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, left, looks to pass the ball against Knicks center Enes Kanter during the first half at the United Center, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. (Kamil Krzaczynski / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) sits on the bench during the first quarter against the Knicks, Saturday Dec. 9, 2017, at the United Center. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) walks to the bench in the second half of a game against the Nuggets, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in Denver. (David Zalubowski / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) looks on in the first half of a game against the Nuggets, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in Denver. (David Zalubowski / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, right, shoots under pressure as Lakers center Brook Lopez defends him during the first half Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Kyusung Gong / AP)
Bulls center Robin Lopez (42), left, greets teammate Lauri Markkanen (24) before a game against the Hornets at the United Center Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) runs down the court in the second half of a game against the Pacers at the United Center on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) looks for an open teammate in the first half of a game against the Pelicans at the United Center on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) defends against the Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) in the first half of a game at the United Center on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) shoots beside Hawks forward Mike Muscala (31) in the first half of a game at the United Center on Thursday, October 26, 2017. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) stands on the floor in the second half of a game against the Hawks at the United Center on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Lauri Markkanen (24) passes against the Cavaliers' Jeff Green (32) in the first half of a game Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak / AP)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) drives to the basket against Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half of a game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (Kamil Krzaczynski / AP)
Lauri Markkanen dribbles the ball during the first half of a game against the Raptors at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Oct. 19, 2017. (Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen drives against Perry Jones of the elicans during a preseason game at the United Center on Oct. 8, 2017. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24), left, sits on the bench during a preseason game against the Bucks at the United Center Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Bulls players Bobby Portis, left, Robin Lopez and Lauri Markkanen pose for a photo during Bulls media day on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Dave Zarzynski, left, and Katie Hanrahan, right, measure Lauri Markkanen's wingspan during media day for the Bulls on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP)
Finland's Lauri Markkanen and his teammates celebrate after winning the EuroBasket 2017 group A match between Finland and Iceland in Helsinki, Finland, Sept. 6, 2017. (Mauri Ratilainen / EPA)
Finland's Lauri Markkanen and Petteri Koponen react after the EuroBasket match against Poland in Helsinki, Finland, on Sept. 3, 2017. (MAURI RATILAINEN / EPA)
Finland's Lauri Markkanen in action during the EuroBasket match against Poland in Helsinki, Finland, on Sept. 3, 2017. (MAURI RATILAINEN / EPA)
Finland's Lauri Markkanen in action against Klemen Prepelic of Slovenia during a EuroBasket group match in Helsinki, Finland, on Sept. 2, 2017. (MARKKU OJALA / EPA)
Finland´s Lauri Markkanen in action against France's Lousie Labeyrie and Edwin Jackson during their EuroBasket match in Helsinki, Finland, on Aug. 31, 2017. (MARKKU OJALA / EPA)
The Bulls' Lauri Markkanen shoots during warmups before a 2017 Summer League game against the Mavericks at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 8, 2017, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)
The Mavericks' Johnathan Motley knocks the ball away from the Bulls' Lauri Markkanen during the 2017 Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 8, 2017, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen answers questions during a news conference on June 27, 2017. (G-Jun Yam / AP)
Bulls introduce new players Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine on June 27, 2017, at the Advocate Center. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)
Lauri Markkanen answers questions during an interview after he was the No. 7 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. (Frank Franklin II / AP)
No. 7 pick Lauri Markkanen walks on stage with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted by the Timberwolves (for the Bulls) on June 22, 2017. (Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen shows off the flag of Finland inside his suit jacket at the 2017 NBA draft. (Jason Szenes / EPA)
Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski, left, and Arizona's Lauri Markkanen battle for a rebound during the second half on Dec. 3, 2016. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)
Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen smiles during practice in San Jose, Calif., ahead of the NCAA tournament on March 22, 2017. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)
Lauri Markkanen reacts after hitting a three-pointer against Washington on Jan. 29, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Huskies 77-66. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
Oregon State's Stephen Thompson Jr. tries to pass the ball around Arizona's Lauri Markkanen during the second half in Corvallis, Ore., on Feb. 2, 2017. (Timothy J. Gonzalez / AP)
Arizona's Lauri Markkanen attemts a shot against Cal-State Bakersfield at the McKale Center on Nov. 15, 2016. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen has been playing with a sore oblique muscle for two weeks, coach Jim Boylen said Tuesday.

“If you’ve ever had one of those, it’s just a weird injury,” Boylen told reporters at the Advocate Center hours before the Bulls played host to the Knicks. “It’s not enough to keep you out; it’s not enough to stop your momentum. But it’s enough to maybe influence how you do things and how you play, and he’s fought through it and I’m really proud of him.”

Markkanen has been shooting below his typical averages, particularly from behind the 3-point arc. His 3-point (27.9%), field-goal (38.5%) and free-throw (80.9%) percentages are all down from last season, when he shot 36.1% from long distance, 43% from the field and 87.2% at the line.

Boylen said he didn’t know how much the injury was to blame for Markkanen’s shooting woes.

“He’s a good shooter. He’s always been a good shooter,” Boylen said. “Shooters go through slumps. Hitters go through slumps. It happens.”

Markkanen spoke to reporters before Boylen did, and he didn’t mention being hurt. He did acknowledge he needs to shoulder more of the offensive load.

“I can play a lot better than I’ve been playing,” said Markkanen, who’s averaging 14.9 points, almost four fewer than last season’s 18.7 average. “First of all, I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror: 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 one of the Bulls’ top three scorers last season with Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr., Markkanen is essential to the Bulls offense. He has had several wayward shooting nights in the first 10 games, particularly from long range.

His 35-point outburst against the Hornets in the season opener masked a 1-for-7 performance from behind the arc. There was no disguising his 1-for-10 night from 3-point range against the Grizzlies in the next game.

In Saturday’s loss to the Rockets, he shot 3-for-10 for 13 points, missing all five 3-point attempts.

Scrutiny about Markkanen’s shooting is what first prompted Boylen to lay some of the blame on Markkanen playing hurt.

“I’ll stick up for him a little bit. He’s fighting through an injury,” Boylen said. “He hasn’t stopped practicing, he hasn’t stopped working out. He’s fought through, which is growth for him to fight through some of that. He’s never complained, he’s never whined, he’s never (said), ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’

“It’s, ‘Coach, I’m going to do the best I can, I’m going to give you everything I have.’ When you have a mentality like that, good things happen for you. When? I don’t have a crystal ball.”

Markkanen said he has to make better decisions between taking 3s and driving to the basket.

“Just got to read the defense better, what they’re giving (me),” he said. “Sometimes it might be a shot fake and drive instead of a shot. Just got to read the closeouts better.”


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