The Bulls will formally introduce Lauri Markkanen at a Tuesday news conference, so maybe by then the former Arizona forward will become a trending figure in Chicago.
As of now, that’s hardly the case.
Since Thursday, the Bulls’ buzz has been dominated by the trade of its best player, all-star forward Jimmy Butler, to get Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Markkanen from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Only thing missing from the Jimmy Butler trade was a handful of magic beans,” was the Chicago Tribune headline on a column by Steve Rosenbloom, who wrote of the Bulls management team of Gar Forman and John Paxson that “GarPaxalypse is upon us.”
Rosenbloom also assessed the Bulls’ acquisition of Markkanen this way:
“A 7-footer with perimeter shooting skills, but he has never played in the league and will need help and guidance in his development, and good luck with that in GarPax’s organization.”
Meanwhile, a Chicago Sun-Times opinion headline said: “Bulls’ rebuild is headed for a fail unless Gar/Pax can look in a mirror.”
A Sun-Times news story quoted Butler saying he didn’t like “the way some things were handled,” while Butler’s trainer tweeted that he had met “drug dealers with better morals” than Forman. The remark was deleted later.
All this, and very little commentary about Markkanen, though there were a few positive vibes on Twitter.
“I know people are mad,” tweeted David Kaplan, an ESPN Radio host and Comcast SportsNet Chicago TV host. “(B)ut trust me, Lauri Markkanen will be a damn good player.”
Scout’s Evan Daniels tweeted on draft night that the Bulls were getting “the best shooter in the NBA Draft (with) ridiculous shot mechanics, touch and footwork for a stretch post player.”
Certainly, the Bulls see something like that.
“We’re really excited about his potential; as good a big man shooter, maybe as good a shooter that was in the draft this year,” Paxson said on draft night, according to Bulls.com. “And the way our game is going, those big mobile guys that can space the floor give your guards opportunity to create and find gaps. It’s an important piece. It’s all about building the type of team that you want.”
Markkanen’s agent, Michael Lelchitski, said he knew before the draft that the Bulls had interest but were initially out of range to take him. When they threw in their No. 16 pick along with Butler to get No. 7 plus LaVine and Dunn, Lelchitski knew Chicago was serious.
“Clearly, after tonight, they are starting to build around a core group of very young and talented players,” Lelchitski said. “I think (Markkanen) fits very well into that. I’m sure they have big plans for him and their franchise.”
Markkanen embraced those potential plans, too, even if he will be forever linked to what is — at least initially — an unpopular trade.
“I’m definitely ready to play right away,” he said. “Whatever coach asks me to do, I’m going to do. … It’s just a great honor to be here, so I’m blessed to be a part of a historic organization. I’m just going to do everything I can to help the team win.”