Chicago Bulls: Paxson doesn’t think Lauri Markkanen is unhappy in Windy City

A bad start to the regular season for power forward Lauri Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls is something the front office looks to be ignoring.

The Chicago Bulls are hitting a rough patch of their 2019-20 season. Their 125-119 loss was partly masked by a huge performance in what seemed like garbage time in the fourth quarter from rookie two-way shooting guard Adam Mokoka. In less than six minutes of playing time on Feb. 6, Mokoka managed 15 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the field.

But that matchup against the Pelicans was pretty much literally fumbled away by power forward Cristiano Felicio when he tipped the ball back into the Bulls own hoop on a missed free throw late in the fourth quarter. That is far from the first Felicio mishap in a Bulls uniform, though.

This poor play at a key stage of the regular season does have to be wearing on a lot of the better Bulls players. Injuries and losses continue to mount and the front office is providing very little clarity as to the direction of the franchise heading into the 2020 offseason.

One player that John Paxson was asked about when he spoke with the media following the Bulls silent trade deadline day was power forward Lauri Markkanen. According to a report from Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald, Paxson doesn’t think that Markkanen is unhappy in Chicago despite some recent discussion surrounding that topic.

Here’s what this report from the Daily Herald had to say on the matter.

John Paxson responded to speculation that Lauri Markkanen is not happy in Chicago. The truth is, everyone on the team is probably disgruntled with the Bulls’ 19-33 record heading into Thursday.

“Lauri, we believe in at a high level and we view him as a cornerstone player,” Paxson said. “It’s our responsibility to help him become the type of player we believe he can be. We’ve had direct communication with him, with his agent … we’ve never been told Lauri doesn’t want to be here.”

Markkanen has another year left on his rookie contract. He will be eligible for an extension in the fall or he could become a restricted free agent in 2021.

The discussion surrounding what to do with Markkanen’s extension will be an interesting one heading into the offseason. There was speculation at times that Markkanen might be worth a max contract extension once he was eligible if he had that true rise to prominence this season. But that has yet to happen.

If nothing else, Markkanen’s play and production so far this season generated a whole new list of questions as to how valuable he will be to this franchise moving forward. He’s averaging 15.0 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from beyond the arc.

There should be an equal number of questions for Paxson and Gar Forman as there are for Markkanen. The lack of direction and clarity coming from the front office and ownership after a silent trade deadline is maddening to a lot of the fan base given the lack of progress in the third year of this rebuild.

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Markkanen is currently dealing with a pelvic injury that could hold him out of the lineup until the beginning of March. This has to be difficult for him to watch the 19-34 Bulls continue to slide down the Eastern Conference standings with their thin rotation of late.

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