It’s amazing the difference two months can make in terms of perception.
On draft night, Chicago Bulls fans were screaming bloody murder as the Bulls executives shipped Jimmy Butler and a second round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the seventh pick. The cries got even louder when the Bulls used that seventh pick on Finnish big man Lauri Markkanen.
Flash forward two months and that perception has changed. Markkanen has played five games in EuroBasket, he’s dominated, and everybody has lost their minds. Especially the people in Finland because now they have somebody exciting to watch when hockey and skiing season end.
The hype around Markkanen is palpable and his Finnish coaches have only helped to accentuate #MarkkanenMadness.
First, Markkanen wants to become an NBA All-Star (which is a reasonable goal for any rookie entering the league). But, he arrived at this goal because an unnamed coach coaxed him into it.
"I don't want to just be in the NBA, I want to play there," Markkanen said. "My coach said I should be an All-Star at some point in my career. I took that personally so that's definitely one of the individual goals I have."
Then, there are the inevitable comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki.
"He's rare," said Henrik Dettmann, the national team head coach who also coached a young Dirk Nowitzki with the German national team from 1997 to 2003. "Finland is like New Jersey. We are no bigger. We don't get a player of this caliber with all these abilities and this mentality.
"It's very unfair to compare human beings to each other but I have to say I was very lucky to be around when Dirk kind of developed and I saw him from he was 18 years old. It's hard not to say that there are at least some similarities with his ability to shoot with his long hair and with his passion for basketball and for work."
Move over Nikola Mirotic, because the pressure cooker has shifted to another poor European soul.
Finally, to satisfy the appetites of the #FireGarPax hell raisers again, here is a small anecdote in the article that makes the Bulls executives look pretty bad. Our own Ricky O’Donnell pointed it out on Twitter.
In a highly believable Bulls anecdote: the Bulls weren't even sure how good Markkanen was when they drafted him. pic.twitter.com/ryGPs8JIad— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) September 7, 2017
But to not end on a GarPax note, here’s a long breakdown of Markkanen’s play at Eurobasket from Coach Nick: