Markkanen optimistic after first chat with Donovan
In a normal year, Monday would have been Bulls media day, with training camp set to begin.
Instead, the players are moving onto their second week of minicamp and haven't yet met new coach Billy Donovan in person.
Lauri Markkanen talked Monday about wanting some continuity with the coaching schemes, but things aren't returning to normal anytime soon, considering the NBA Finals are getting ready to tip off in Orlando.
"I do think I can be more productive, more versatile than I was last year," Markkanen told reporters on a Zoom call. "I think not at all times, but there were times I felt like I was just used as a spacing the floor. Just talking to Billy, I'm really confident going into this year just off one conversation just how he uses players to their strengths. So I'm excited."
Since it's a been a long time since the Bulls played a game, here's a quick recap of Markkanen's career progression:
In his second season, his numbers (18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds) were better than Dirk Nowitzki at the same age. In Year 3, Markkanen slid into Andrea Bargnani territory (14.7 points, 6.3 rebounds).
It was convenient to blame the slide on former coach Jim Boylen's offense. But Markkanen also had some injury issues and seemed to shy away from contact last season. There's no guarantee Donovan will get Markkanen back on track, but that's the job he accepted.
"He talked about posting up right away and just being involved," Markkanen said. "He kind of asked me where do I want the ball and what do I want to do with it. I'm excited to work with him. Obviously, I haven't met him yet, but I got a good feeling out of our one conversation."
Like most everyone else in the world, Markkanen did a lot of sitting around after the Bulls' season cane to an abrupt end on March 10. He went back home to Finland for a month, then started working out at the Advocate Center in July.
He said he was in the gym when news arrived that vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas decided to fire Boylen on Aug. 14.
"It was a weird day," Markkanen said. "I read the internet just like everybody else. I knew there were talks about it. Things didn't go our way this year. That's on all of us. I have nothing against him. I wish him the best and we move on. I didn't really have a reaction. It was just a weird day."
A week of minicamp has Markkanen ready to set expectations high, even though the playoff talk backfired last year.
"I do feel very confident going into this year," he said. "I think when you look at our team and the players on paper, we should have a really good team. I think the direction we're going as an organization, I'm really confident going in. The experience that coach Donovan has to bring to the table, I think we're going to be good."