Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg suggested a title for Sunday's preseason loss to New Orleans.
"Everybody loves Lauri."
Maybe not so much when the rookie from Finland misses 8 of 9 shots, but the fact that he didn't shy away from trying to produce offense in his preseason debut. Markkanen missed the first three games to rest a sore back.
"That's one thing that I think everybody loves about Lauri," Hoiberg said after the Bulls' 108-95 defeat at the United Center. "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."
Markkanen entered the game for the first time at the start of the second quarter. It took him just 12 seconds to fire his first 3-point shot from the left wing, but it missed.
The 7-footer seemed rusty. He went 1-for-7 from the field in the second quarter and 0-for-4 from long range, then tossed up just 2 shots in the second half.
"I was pretty nervous on the bench before I got in," Markkanen said. "Once I got in, it just felt like I got to play basketball again and it was fun. It feels surreal just to be on an NBA court.
"I'm not lacking in confidence. The shots weren't falling today, just got to go back to the gym. I'm not worried about that."
There may also be a late night phone call to Jyvaskyla, Finland to tell friends and family about trying to stop massive New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins in Markkanen's first attempt at NBA defense. It didn't go great, but why would it?
The Pelicans played their starters well into the fourth quarter. Cousins finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. Chicago native Anthony Davis piled up 37 points and 15 rebounds while dropping in 22 of 23 free throws. Ex-Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo took the night off.
"He (Markkanen) didn't show any fear, he didn't back down, playing against arguably the best center in the league," Hoiberg said.
The Bulls coach pointed out that when these teams played last Tuesday in New Orleans, the Bulls gave up 46 points in the first quarter. On Sunday, they knocked that down to 20.
"Tonight we talked about getting off to a much better defensive start," Hoiberg said. "We shot 31 (percent) and change in that first half and it was a 5-point deficit. That's growth. You've got to find a way to keep yourself in the game when the shots aren't falling."
As will be the case all season, the Bulls (2-2) will stay in games when their 3-point shots are falling. Sunday didn't start so well, with the Bulls going 5-for-21 from long range in the first half. They opened the third quarter by hitting 4 of their first 6 from behind the arc and tied the score at 63-63 before the Pelicans pulled away.
Denzel Valentine scored 15 points to lead six players in double figures. Nikola Mirotic, Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez finished with 13 points each. Cristiano Felicio grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
With Kris Dunn out at least two weeks with a dislocated finger, the Bulls' point guard rotation will be Jerian Grant starting and two-way contract holder Ryan Arcidiacono backing him up. In this game, Arcidiacono led the Bulls with 6 assists, while Grant added 5. Hoiberg said the Bulls will know more about Dunn's recovery timeline after he sees a hand specialist Monday.