Markkanen out for 4-6 weeks, Bulls miss him in loss to Kings
The Bulls haven't shown much progress during the rebuild, but there have been plenty of setbacks.
The latest was news that Lauri Markkanen will be out 4-6 weeks because of a stress reaction in his right pelvis. Markkanen had played in all 46 games this season, struggling through an oblique strain early in the season and a sprained ankle during the past three weeks.
Before the Bulls lost to Sacramento 98-81 on Friday at the United Center, Markkanen said he'd had some hip soreness for the past week to 10 days, but the severity of this diagnosis surprised him.
"It was nothing major, just soreness and I'm getting normal treatment and it didn't prevent me to do anything," he said. "I've been practicing and playing normal. I can't think of (anything) specific that happened. Just a couple games now, it just felt like normal soreness. We just decided before we go on the road, get an MRI."
There were some questions about whether Markkanen would continue playing if this were the playoffs or the Bulls were higher in the standings. Obviously, they're not, but the Bulls started the night just 2½ games behind Brooklyn for the No. 8 seed in the East.
"They explained to me what could happen and I think it is smart," Markkanen said. "I mean, it feels the same. It's been a couple days now and it's felt like normal soreness. I don't know if it would be smart to play, but I feel like I could play. Of course it could always get worse. I think this is the smart thing to do."
The Bulls' worst fears were realized during Friday's game. Zach LaVine opened the third quarter by scoring 10 straight points, but otherwise found himself surrounded by Kings. LaVine finished with 21 points, hitting 8 of 21 shots. Chandler Hutchison was the team's second-leading scorer with 11.
"We've got to find (a second scorer)," coach Jim Boylen said after the game. "Maybe we've got to do it by committee, maybe it's a different guy every night. We'll find one, we'll figure it out. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we've been shooting it and we didn't get to the line enough."
The game was tied when LaVine went to the bench for a rest late in the third quarter. They trailed by 9 when he came back in. With just under five minutes left, LaVine and Boylen picked up back-to-back technicals after LaVine tried to go 1-on-3 under the hoop. Sacramento (16-29) snapped a six-game losing streak with the win.
"(We miss) the way he spaced the floor," LaVine said. "Last couple games, I felt like he was getting himself into a rhythm. The worst thing in sports is injuries, but it happens.
"We've got to get somebody to step up and I think we'll find it. First game without Lau. We'll figure out what we need to do in Cleveland (on Saturday)."
Boylen made it sound like this was an easy decision for the organization to give Markkanen time off.
"We're always going to look out for the best interest of our guy," Boylen said. "Lauri had a goal to play 82 games and he fought through the oblique and he fought through the ankle. We felt those were things that were acceptable to fight through, and this is something that we are not going to have him fight through."