Bulls don't want national team duty to slow Markkanen's progress in weight room

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen drives against Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris Friday in Boston. The Bulls want Lauri Markkanen's summer to be about getting stronger.

    Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen drives against Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris Friday in Boston. The Bulls want Lauri Markkanen's summer to be about getting stronger. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/10/2018 7:34 PM

Bulls are making plans to ensure Lauri Markkanen will make this summer about getting stronger, even as he returns to Finland for some national team duty.

"(Finland) coach (Henrik) Dettmann came over here for a period this year, we spent some time with him last summer as well," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I know we're going to be in constant communication to make sure we're on the same page with his development. It's an important summer for all parties."

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European basketball is going through a long, drawn-out process of qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Finland has pool games scheduled with Czech Republic and Iceland on June 29 and July 1. There will be a couple of Round 2 games in mid-September.

"I think that will be good for him," Hoiberg said. "He had really good international experience last season (in the European championships). The biggest thing was the amount of pressure that he played with in his home country. He had the weight of the world on his shoulders and the way he performed, especially in crunchtime, showed us the type of player that he could become."

Markkanen ready for more:

Rookie Lauri Markkanen is expected to play in Wednesday's regular season finale against Detroit. On Tuesday at the Advocate Center, he talked about getting past the Bulls' season of rebuilding.

"I think that's definitely our goal, to make the playoffs next year," he said. "It stinks that our season ends now. No one wants to be in this position again. That's what we're trying to do."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Markkanen said he plans to visit Finland when the season ends and might try to catch the NBA playoffs in person.

"I probably will, depending on where the game's going to be at and when," he said. "Hopefully I get to go to some (playoff) games."

Lopez gets plug:

Clearly, the Bulls' three main rebuilding pieces are Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. On Tuesday, coach Fred Hoiberg suggested veteran center Robin Lopez as the fourth wheel, so to speak.

"Robin was as important a part as anything, especially getting Kris Dunn going," Hoiberg said. "He had such a positive impact when those guys played together. When to set a screen, when to get (Dunn) downhill and in the paint."

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