Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine swear that there is a riveting personality hidden behind the awkward exterior that Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen conveys to the public.
In a 20-minute interview with NBC Chicago Sports Network reporter Mark Schanowski, Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen set out on a mission to dispel the myth that the Finnish big man is an expressionless robot.
“It’s a process of getting comfortable with the media and like you’ve said you’ve only been in the states for a couple years,” NBC Chicago Sports Network reporter Mark Schanowski said in a sit down with Markkanen, LaVine, and Dunn. “In a lot of your interviews you’re pretty quiet and people don’t really get to know your personality but the guys say that you’ve really got a pretty good personality.”
“All he do is joke around all day....” LaVine interjects.
While being outgoing publicly certainly doesn’t equate to on-court effectiveness (see Derrick Rose during his glory days for an example), Markkanen and the Bulls hope the rookie can eventually become more comfortable in his role as one of the faces of the franchise and embrace the leadership role that comes with it.
There’s always going to be a steep learning curve when trying to fit in with a new group of people. This doesn’t just include teammates and coaches, but the media and other personnel that he must interact with on a day-to-day basis. Markkanen understands this and is consciously trying to improve.
“Just trying to be a leader but at the same time it might take a little time to actually get comfortable knowing the guys,” Markkanen said. “I had the same thing at Arizona because obviously [English] isn’t my native language so there was a little bit of a problem at first too. But, I’m getting there.”
It’s all a learning process, just like Markkanen’s attempts to learn to drive a car which Schanowski brought up during the interview much to the delight of Dunn and LaVine.
At the Rising Stars game during All-Star Weekend, Markkanen was among the most vocal of the participants if the mic’d up footage from the contest was representative of how much each player talked.
A lot has been thrown at Markkanen during his rookie season. From the burden of expectations that came from his draft position, to the reoccurring back spasms that have forced him to miss 12 games this season, he has juggled all those things while simultaneously adapting to the NBA and learning how to be a father.
“It’s been great,” Markkanen said of fatherhood. “Of course, it’s a little different you have to get your sleep on the road. But you want to go home [to see your child] after games [so] it’s awesome.”
All extraneous factors considered, Markkanen has handled his rookie season about as well as anybody could have hoped. The leadership skills will continue to evolve as he acclimates to his surroundings, and will hopefully peak when the Bulls are in position to win a championship in the coming years.
Sooner rather than later, Markkanen will find his voice. And all the funny videos dispersed online prove that he’s an interesting guy, even if he doesn’t act that way around the media.