Los Angeles — NBA All-Star weekend doesn’t just belong to the big boys playing in the league’s marquee event on Sunday night. It also provides a sneak peak and shines a light on the young fellas that could be the future of the game down the road: the dudes that were invited to play in Friday night’s Rising Stars game.
We caught up with the Chicago Bulls’ sharpshooting rookie out of the University of Arizona who hails from Finland, Lauri Markkanen, who is averaging 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this year. He gave us some insight on making the transition to the NBA, being the only player from the league from Finland, what it feels like to be compared to a young Dirk Nowitzki and more. Here’s what he had to say.
“Everything has gone so fast this season, I still haven’t had time to think about what’s been going on. I’ve just been going day by day and following the schedule. Hopefully at some point, I’ll realize the impact of being able to participate in this All-Star weekend.
Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen scored 33 points and added 10 rebounds in a double overtime win against the New York Knicks. Markkanen hit 8 three-pointers, tying the Bulls’ franchise rookie record. Top Performers Which players owned the night? Catch up on all the top individual performances around the league in the Top Performers series.
I’m not surprised that I’m having an impact in the NBA as a rookie.I’m expecting big things from myself. I didn’t realize that I was the fastest to ever make 100 3-pointers in the NBA. I just try and do my thing every day on the court. I didn’t even know it was a record, so it wasn’t like I was shooting for it. It was just something that happened. I have to give a lot of credit and thanks to my teammates for finding me in the open spots so I was able to do my job.
Coming into the NBA out of college, I knew the travel would be tough, but it’s even more games and more tiring than I expected. But I love playing in Chicago. The fans are there every night and the United Center is packed. It’s frustrating with all of the losses, but we have a young team so it gives us a chance to go out there and learn from our mistakes and actually get better as a team. Even though we’re not winning right now, we’re doing good things on the court and growing.
The third game of the season, playing against LeBron, that was my humbling, welcome to the NBA moment. It was a close game for a while, but down the stretch he just took the ball and did whatever he wanted. Learning what I needed to work on to get better has happened in every game I’ve played so far. You always find new things and the physicality of the game is so much different than what I’ve been accustomed to.
Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen has made 100 three-pointers this season. He is the fastest player in NBA history to make 100 threes. Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass
I’d probably go with Donovan Mitchell as the league’s Rookie of the Year right now. The things he’s doing are unreal, and there are a lot of good rookies this year. Obviously Ben Simmons has been incredible,and Jayson Tatum too. But seeing what Donovan is doing, he surprises me every time.
When I was growing up, I wasn’t able to watch too much NBA because there’s a big-time time difference over in Finland. The first real NBA memory I have is seeing the Lakers play against the Magic. I was a guard growing up, so I looked up to Kobe.
To be compared to Dirk Nowitzki is an honor for me. He’s a certain future Hall of Famer, so that’s great. But we’re our own players. I see where the comparisons come from, in terms of size and shooting the ball. I’ve met him a couple of times off the court. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance this offseason to actually learn from him and maybe work out together.
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At the World Cup in 2014, Finland started to improve and we’ve been able to get more people playing basketball. We’ve got a good system with the National Team and a lot of hard-working guys. So this summer, we should continue to improve.
Finland is more of a hockey country. Right now, I’m the only one from Finland playing in the NBA. Hopefully we’ll get a lot more in the future. I take a lot of pride in trying to build Finnish basketball. “