The Chicago Bulls were dealt a brutal blow prior to the start of the 2018-19 NBA season when Lauri Markkanen suffered an elbow injury. As the team revealed, it was a high-grade lateral elbow sprain which occurred on September 27. The original timeline for return was 6-8 weeks from the injury.
Opening night for the Bulls fell on October 18, so less than a month after Markkanen suffered the setback. It was disappointing news for the former first-round pick out of Arizona, who Chicago selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The 21-year-old averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds over 29.7 minutes per game last season and when he returns, is expected to be a key piece of the team’s starting lineup. After all, the talented big man was a first-team All-Rookie selection last year, so there’s plenty of optimism surrounding him.
Replacing Lauri Markkanen
Recently, as Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times revealed, guard Denzel Valentine was open about the fact that this was a tough setback, but one the team had to get past.
“I mean, yeah, but it’s always adversity no matter what,” guard Denzel Valentine said. “Every year I’ve played on a basketball team, something happened — something major happened where you had to overcome it — so you can look at it two ways: You can let it wear you down, or you can push through it and try and find ways to get better.”
Cowley also detailed head coach Fred Hoiberg’s comments on Markkanen’s injury and a potential plan to replace him and admitted free-agent signing Jabari Parker could be an option.
“He’s played, obviously, a majority of his minutes at the four in the early stages of his career,” Hoiberg said. “He’s picked up things very quickly at the three spot, and again, he’s going to have to play both with his versatility. He’s going to have to get reps in both spots. We’ve really liked how he’s handled the four.”
Time will tell, but it’s unlikely Bulls fans will see Markkanen back on the court for roughly another month to month and a half. Anything earlier than that would be a stroke of good luck.
Latest on Timeline
There hadn’t been much said on Markkanen’s injury up until the early-to-mid stages of November. Early in the month, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that the young forward had started to ramp up his workload at practices.
“Lauri had a good day as far as conditioning,’’ Fred Hoiberg said. “He did more than he has… We’ll try to get Lauri in game shape as quickly as possible.”
Just under two weeks after that news came, Kevin Anderson of NBC Sports reported that Hoiberg said Markkanen is 1-2 weeks away from contact. The coach continued by stating that it will be at least a week after that before he returns.
We finally received a big update on Monday, November 26, which pointed to Markkanen returning to practice the next day, courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times. Then, the biggest update of all came shortly after that.
Update: Saturday, December 1
The Bulls have listed Markkanen as probable for Saturday’s game against the Houston Rockets. As The Athletic’s Shams Charania revealed, he’s expected to make his season debut in this game, which comes after he was able to practice without any setbacks.
There’s an obvious reason to believe that Markkanen will be on a minute restriction of some sort if he’s back against the Rockets. Regardless, the fact that the young forward will be back in the mix to provide much-needed depth in the frontcourt is huge for the Bulls.
Source: Heavy Sports