Bulls searching for ways to get Markkanen going

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Lauri Markkanen's diminished numbers might be the Bulls' biggest concern early this season. Zach LaVine and Jim Boylen took shots at explaining how the 7-foot Finnish forward can get back on track.

    Lauri Markkanen's diminished numbers might be the Bulls' biggest concern early this season. Zach LaVine and Jim Boylen took shots at explaining how the 7-foot Finnish forward can get back on track. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 11/15/2019 10:20 PM

There are plenty of reasons why the Bulls haven't won with any consistency this season, but one that stands out is the regression of third-year forward Lauri Markkanen.

When Markkanen averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds over a 15-game stretch last season, that was supposed to be a template of what's ahead. But after a nice performance on opening night in Charlotte, Markkanen has averaged just 12.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 34.5 percent from the field.

 

Zach LaVine, the team's leading scorer, thinks maybe the adjustment to a new offense has been difficult. The Bulls are trying to emphasize drives to the basket and 3-point shots.

Since opening night, Markkanen has taken 56 percent of his shots from 3-point range. That night in Charlotte, when he finished with 35 points and 17 rebounds, Markkanen took just 7 of his 25 shots from behind the arc and added 10 free throws.

"He just doesn't seem in rhythm right now man," LaVine said after Friday's practice. "It's a new offense and I think it has a part to do with it. We've just got to help him find it. We've all gone through some struggles. I feel like everybody has been off rhythm in the beginning part of the year. I think everybody is shooting a lower field goal percentage than their (career) average."

That's not entirely true. Kris Dunn and Wendell Carter Jr. are shooting better than their career averages. Markkanen is at 37.6 percent this season, compared to 42.8 percent over his three years as a pro.

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"I talked to him. His spirits are still high," LaVine said. "I know he's worried about it, but he's not pressing yet. I think that's good to see. He hasn't done anything out of character. He hasn't lashed out or blamed anybody. He just wants to win. And that's the type of player he is.

"We just have to do a better job of helping him get to his rhythm and find him. It stinks because you don't want to see your guy out there struggling, especially when you know how good he is and what he can do. We've got to find him some easy baskets to help him get in a rhythm. Without him, it's going to be tough to play."

Getting physical on Lauri:

Lauri Markkanen started the season well, but his 35 and 17 game happened when Charlotte used 6-7 rookie P.J. Washington to guard him most of the night. Against taller and more proven opponents, Markkanen has rarely scored near the basket this season.

He's shown he can do it, though, which makes this season's performance puzzling.

"I think in general, the league is more prepared for him," coach Jim Boylen said. "I think in general, he's A1 or A2 on the scouting report and they're bringing physicality at him every night. I also think we've demanded that he play better defense and more consistent defense. So being a two-way player at this level is very difficult.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's not just shooting that's gone south. The Bulls are regularly outrebounded by opponents and Markkanen's defensive rating is on the lower end of the team.

"Yeah, we want him to be the Lauri Markkanen he was in February," Boylen said. "We believe he can do that. I show him the things he needs to do better. He understands what he needs to do, he's not a dummy. And he cares about the team."

Bull horns:

Otto Porter is still out with a left foot sprain and won't play against Brooklyn on Saturday. ... Backup center Luke Kornet has not played in the last two games, after starting the season in the rotation. ... Rookie Daniel Gafford had 20 points and 13 rebounds in the Windy City Bulls' 111-97 win at Canton on Friday. Max Strus led the way with 29 points.

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