Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen felt trade-deadline safe and he was righton March 26, 2021 at 1:15 am

Lauri Markkanen is no stranger to the location of the upstairs offices at the Advocate Center.

The Bulls forward simply chose not to visit them the last week leading up to the Thursday trade deadline.

“No I didn’t go talk to him,” Markkanen said, when asked if he paid a recent visit to executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

The invitation was definitely out there.

Head coach Billy Donovan made that very clear, insisting to his players on several occasions that if they had questions about their standing within the organization, there was a simple way to resolve it.

“My feeling has always been if you’ve got a question, if you’re hearing something that you’re concerned about, that you need to go to Arturas and to [general manager] Marc [Eversley] and sit down and talk to them, and they’ll be straight up and honest with you,” Donovan said on several occasions leading up to the deadline.

Markkanen’s feeling was, “I’m good.”

In the end he was.

A source said that the Markkanen to New Orleans for point guard Lonzo Ball had some life going into the deadline, but the Pelicans asking price was too much.

Like Orlando, New Orleans wanted the 2021 first-round pick packaged in, and Karnisovas and company were much more comfortable using that pick for Vucevic rather than in the Ball deal.

There were other calls on Markkanen, but the source said none serious. The Bulls did talk to the Wizards about adding Markkanen in the deal, but Washington didn’t want to part with a first-round pick.

“I felt, I’m in a good place that I can focus on the task at hand, I can play games and it’s not gonna bother me,” Markkanen said on Wednesday. “I can’t control [trades], I knew that was one possibility when I didn’t sign my extension before the season, so I knew that was one thing that can happen. So it doesn’t affect me at all.”

At least not yet.

In acquiring the likes of All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and a defensive-minded big like Daniel Theis, Markkanen no longer has the pressure of being the second option to Zach LaVine in the scoring department or play out of position on the defensive end.

More importantly, in adding Vucevic and Theis – each with Euro backgrounds – Markkanen has a few veteran players that he has more of a common background with. If he can’t make this work, it might very well be time to let him walk as a restricted free agent this summer.

“Besides the quality of players we added, I think also the players have been in playoff games,” Karnisovas said of the two Euro players that were added. “They’ve played in meaningful games. They’re also a competitive bunch.”

It will now fall on Donovan to get the new faces into the mix, and figure out how they will play with the likes of a Markkanen, LaVine and a Thad Young. Either way, the goal is to win games down the stretch and reach the playoffs.

It would be really nice if Markkanen is there for the ride, and then the next order of business can be discussed with him this offseason.

“We try to win games,” Karnisovas said. “That’s basically why we’re in this business. And again, right from the beginning from the time we got here, we said that we’re trying to get back to relevancy and [Thursday] made it happen. Expectations are always obviously winning and getting in the playoffs and getting our team better.

“There’s a lot of interesting pieces there and has different attributes each player. A lot of them we’ve liked for a long time and were targeting in different situations and now was a chance to acquire them and we’re really excited.”

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