Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen knows how to get to the upstairs offices at the Advocate Center. He simply chose not to visit them in the last week before the NBA trade deadline on Thursday.
“No, I didn’t go to talk to him,” Markkanen said, referring to Arturas Karnisovas, executive vice president of basketball operations.
The option was there; Coach Billy Donovan told players on several occasions that if they had questions about their position, there was an easy way to get answers.
Markkanen’s sentiment was “I’m fine.”
And in the end, it was.
Rumors that Markkanen would go to New Orleans for point guard Lonzo Ball had some life before the deadline, according to a source, but the Pelicans’ asking price was too much. Like the Magic, the Pelicans were said to want the Bulls’ 2021 draft first-round pick as part of a package. But the Bulls were more comfortable using that pick to acquire Nikola Vucevic from the Magic.
According to the source, there were other calls about Markkanen, but none were serious. The Bulls spoke with the Wizards about including Markkanen in the teams’ multiplayer agreement, but the Wizards did not want to part ways with a first-round pick, the source said.
Markkanen walked in Thursday, claiming not to be concerned.
“I felt in a good place where I can focus on the task at hand, I can play and it is not going to bother me,” he said Wednesday. “I can not control [trades] – I knew it was a possibility when I didn’t sign my overtime before the season, so I knew that was something that could happen. So it doesn’t affect me at all. “
But these exchanges could still affect him, and in a good way. By acquiring Vucevic and defensive-minded big man Daniel Theis, Markkanen no longer has the pressure of being Zach LaVine’s second choice in the scoring department or playing out of position on defense.
More importantly, in Vucevic and Theis, each with European backgrounds, Markkanen now has veteran teammates with more in common with him. If you can’t make this work, it might be time to let him walk as a restricted free agent this summer.
“Besides the quality of the players we added, I think the players have also been in playoff games,” Karnisovas said of Vucevic and Theis. “They have played in meaningful games. They are also a competitive group. “
Now it will be up to Donovan to bring in the new faces and figure out how they will play with Markkanen, LaVine and Thad Young. In any case, the goal is to win games down the stretch and make the playoffs.
It would be nice if Markkanen were there before he and the Bulls discuss the next agenda this offseason.
“We try to win games,” Karnisovas said. “Basically, that is why we are in this business. And again, from the beginning from the moment we got here, we said we were trying to get back to relevance, and [Thursday] made it possible. The expectations are always, obviously, to win and make the playoffs and improve our team. “