Natural shooters must possess more than accuracy. Short memories are essential too.
And so it is with Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen.
It’s a good sign the first-round pick scored 15 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s exhibition victory against the Cavaliers, burying a flurry of jumpers in a short span. It’s a better sign that Markkanen offered virtually the same response after a breakout game as he did when he shot 1-for-9 in his debut, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
“Like I said last time, I’m not lacking in confidence,” Markkanen said with almost a smirk. “Make one shot and I felt even better.”
It showed not only with his shotmaking, but with the way the 7-footer battled defensively and displayed a physical side that led to several teams having him high on their draft board in June. Markkanen even mixed it up with LeBron James on one possession, drawing a stare from King James.
“He has a physical presence,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He has a little nasty streak to him, which we love. He’s not going to back down from anybody. He has some good athleticism. He moves his feet. He got caught in a couple switches on some of the best isolation players in this league. And I felt he competed.”
Hoiberg once led the NBA in 3-point shooting and has enjoyed playing “Shot Doctor” to players including Dwyane Wade — in an attempt to boost the veteran’s 3-point accuracy — and Kris Dunn. And though Hoiberg did emphasize to Markkaken the importance of finishing every shot and shooting on balance at Tuesday’s morning shootaround, the doctoring aspect is minimal.
“One thing I never have to worry about Lauri is his shot. He has a beautiful stroke,” Hoiberg said. “He’s going to keep shooting and has great confidence in himself. As a 21-year-old in this league, that’s a great quality to have.
“He’s got a quick release. And he has a little natural lean back on his shot, so it’s hard to contest, especially when you have a high release and you’re that big. A lot of times you try to fix that. But if you have it naturally, it’s tough to defend.”
The sore back that sidelined Markkanen for the first three games has subsided for now. His minutes jumped from 15 to 30 from his debut to the Cavaliers meeting.
Hoiberg said it’s a good sign that Markkanen’s poor debut bothered him enough to make him put in extra work — without affecting his confidence.
“I just try and get back in the gym as quickly as possible and work on things,” Markkanen said. “Watch film, what I did wrong, missed shots and stuff like that. I’m ready to move on and play the next game. That’s what I love about this challenge. There’s a next one coming up quick.”
The next one is the exhibition finale Friday night against the Raptors. Then it gets real. Make or miss, Markkanen will be ready to shoot the next one as well.