Bulls rookie Markkanen misses first game due to back spasms

  • Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) is defended by New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) is defended by New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Chicago.

Updated 12/11/2017 8:48 PM

On Monday afternoon, the Chicago Bulls posted an Instagram video of Lauri Markkanen dribbling a basketball soccer-style with his feet before draining a jumper.

A few hours later, coach Fred Hoiberg announced Markkanen was sidelined for Monday's game against Boston with a sore back.


"He developed back spasms over the course of the day, something that was very similar to what he had in the preseason," Hoiberg said.

Markkanen skipped three of the Bulls' six preseason games with the back issue but had played in all 25 regular-season games until Monday.

"He had one episode in the summer when he was playing with his (Finland) national team," Hoiberg said. "He got over it very quickly. He had the issue in the preseason and got over that very quickly.

"He said it was a little bit tight and then it just tightened up more throughout the course of the day. He'll get another round of treatments tonight, another one tomorrow before practice and hopefully we get him back in the lineup here soon."

The Celtics also were short-handed, with leading scorer Kyrie Irving sitting out after getting kneed in the quad during Sunday's game at Detroit. Forward Marcus Morris (knee) also was out for Boston.

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In Markkanen's absence, Nikola Mirotic got his first start of the season.

LaVine getting work with WC:

The Bulls have a pretty full slate of games coming up, but coach Fred Hoiberg is confident Zach Lavine will be able to prepare himself for a return from a torn left ACL by practicing with the G-League's Windy City Bulls.

Hoiberg admitted the Bulls are planning nothing but light practices the next few weeks, but they can tailor the Windy City workouts to help LaVine get back in shape.

"The practices he's been able to get through with Windy City have been very hard, demanding practices, and that's been by design," Hoiberg said. "We've talked to (coach) Charlie (Henry) about going a little bit longer than he probably would at this time, but that's the great thing about the Windy City situation is you can get those guys high-quality workouts when we're starting to scale back on our practices."

LaVine is still on a schedule where he tries to practice every other day and do skill work in between. He may start practicing on consecutive days in another week or so, and the Bulls are looking at an early January return for game action.

Niko, Portis blend well:

One oddity of the Bulls' two-game winning streak is Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis together on the second unit, which played a vital role in both victories. Both players were set back by an Oct. 17 practice altercation that sent Mirotic to the hospital with facial fractures.

"I've really liked the way they've played together," Fred Hoiberg said. "You've got two skilled players in that second unit who have done a really good job playing off each other. When Bobby pops, Niko will drive to the basket. When Bobby rolls, Niko is pulling behind on the outside and you've got two threats from deep out there."


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