He isn’t missing much, but Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is close to his return.
It has been quite some time since we have gotten to see Lauri Markkanen on the court. The Chicago Bulls have been struggling as of late — and by as of late, I mean the entire season — but a return by Markkanen could spark a team desperate for another strong presence.
The second-year forward has been sidelined with an elbow injury he suffered just before the season began. Originally, the plan was for ascending sixth man Bobby Portis to step in and shoulder the load in Markkanen’s place. Portis had been set for a breakout year, and Markkanen’s injury only seemed to improve that cause.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Portis, like teammate Kris Dunn, was diagnosed with a sprained MCL early in the year and he still hasn’t come back yet. It has been a steady dose of Jabari Parker, Justin Holiday and Chandler Hutchison at the forward positions since Portis’ injury, and let’s just say the Bulls miss both of them dearly.
Bulls fans should be excited, however, because on Monday there was a report that Markkanen should be back very soon. How soon? Well, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune tweeted on Monday that he expects Markkanen to be back as early as next week.
Johnson even specified a date.
As Johnson stated, Markkanen is set for a full contact practice on Tuesday and, barring setbacks, should be good to go next Tuesday when the Bulls travel to take on the Indiana Pacers.
Per Johnson, head coach Fred Hoiberg feels great about Markkanen’s progress. Hoiberg said that the big man has been able to do everything asked of him up to this point and has also been medically cleared to play.
There was a feeling a week or two ago that the Bulls were going to be without Markkanen much longer than originally expected, but that has since died down.
I suppose one could have wondered whether or not Chicago could be holding him back a little while longer in a not-so-subtle effort in another season of the “tank.” But, the Bulls have definitely shown to be competitive on several occasions this year, so the notion of tanking doesn’t hold a ton of weight — yet.
After Markkanen returns, we’ll see how long it takes for Hoiberg to use him as he would have originally planned to this season. My guess is that Markkanen will be eased back in over his first week or two, but once he looks comfortable, he should be a full-go.