The Chicago Bulls have plenty of reasons for optimism this season. Zach LaVine is back and healthy, hometown native Jabari Parker is eager to restart his career, and No. 7 pick Wendell Carter Jr. just might be their center for the future.
They also hit the jackpot last year with Finnish sensation Lauri Markkanen, a prototypical big man for the modern NBA who can do it all. Especially shoot. Markkanen made history last season when he became the fastest rookie ever to make 100 three-pointers, and he did it while shooting 38.9 percent.
After averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Bulls in his rookie campaign, the organization expects big things from the sophomore forward. They’ll have to put that on hold, however, while Markkanen recovers from an elbow injury that will sideline him for the first two months of the season. But he’ll be worth the wait. Not only did he add nearly 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, he’s also using his rehabilitation time to work on his off hand.
We caught up with Markkanen earlier this week to talk about the coming season, what it was like growing up in a household full of professional athletes, and how playing point guard as a teen helped him evolve into the player he is today.
DIME: How long have you been playing Call of Duty?
Lauri Markkanen: I started a little later, actually. I mean, I’ve played all the way from first Modern Warfare, and that was the first game I played, and I actually really loved it. So, I don’t even know how many hours I’ve played that. From that point on, it’s just me and my friends playing all the time and especially in high school. I just love that you don’t really have to think about it or anything … It’s fast paced, and you can just relax. That’s why it’s good.
You mentioned that you played a lot in high school with your friends. Do you play with your current teammates now, and if so, is there anyone who is clearly better than everyone else, or is there someone that you guys kind of like to pick on a little bit and team up on?
We used to have that in high school, but now I’m just playing mostly by myself. I mean, I don’t have as much time with the family and all. It’s like, every now and then I can play and most likely my friends can’t play. And then the time difference too and like [them being] overseas. I live in America now, so that’s an eight-hour time difference, so we haven’t played together like most times.
We all have those stories of games between friends getting little bit too intense. Do you have a story like that from playing with your high school buddies back in the day when things got a little too heated?
I have never been that type of person that throws the controller or anything like that, but I’ve been staying away from that. If I start feeling that way, that’s normally time to quit playing for that night. But I really love the zombie game modes. I’ve been playing those a lot with my friends so I’m really looking forward to the new one.