Bulls Insider

Markkanen putting ‘pressure' on agent to finalize extension


The dominant theme of Lauri Markkanen's Zoom availability Tuesday as part of Bulls' media week was control what you can control.

Obviously, it takes two sides to finalize a long-term extension of his rookie contract by the Dec. 21 deadline to avoid restricted free agency next summer. But Markkanen is controlling his side.

"Like I’ve said before, I really want to be here for the long term," Markkanen said. "So I’m putting some pressure on my agent to get it done."

After his first two promising seasons, Markkanen appeared to be on track for a lucrative extension, perhaps along the lines of those agreed to this offseason by the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum, the Sacramento Kings' De'Aaron Fox, the Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo and the Utah Jazz' Donovan Mitchell. But Markkanen endured a disappointing 2019-20 season marked by injury and indecisive play, exacerbated by questions over his usage in former coach Jim Boylen's scheme.

New executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas and Markkanen's agent, Michael Lelchitski, have a strong working relationship. But that doesn't guarantee anything other than cordiality during negotiations. If an extension isn't reached, Markkanen would be a restricted free agent next offseason.

"Of course I check in every now and then but like I said it’s not something I think of. I don’t want to put too much effort just spending too much energy in my day thinking about things I can’t control," Markkanen said of the state of negotiations. "Of course, (my agent) kind of keeps me in the loop. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Hopefully they’re going to come to an agreement. I can’t say how likely that is."

Dāvis Bertāns recently signed a five-year, $80 million extension that is less lucrative than the max deals agreed to by fellow members of Markkanen's rookie class. But it perhaps set a price tag on stretch-four shooting.

While some speculation has existed that this season will represent one of evaluation for a new management team, Karnišovas said he "absolutely" wants to finalize an extension before the deadline.

"We like Lauri and we would like him to be part of this organization for a long time, so the conversations will continue until the season starts," he said. "We're going to make every effort to get this done."

Markkanen admitted that he noticed when members of his fellow rookie class finalized extensions. But he didn't spend much time dwelling on that, preferring to, again, focus on what he can control.

With training camp opening, that centers on establishing a relationship with new coach Billy Donovan and bouncing back from an underwhelming season.

"I'm the guy who always looks in the mirror first before complaining, so I've been trying to look at what went wrong and trying to stay even more active on the floor and just being involved and move a lot without the ball, to make myself available and that way kind of work my way through it," Markkanen said. "So of course I'm not worried about early in the season I wasn't making shots. I'm not nervous about that. That's going to keep coming from just the confidence that I have and the work I put in. The biggest thing I've been looking at is how to stay more active and be on the move on the floor.

"I can't control what we do on the coaching side and what kind of plays we were running and stuff. I'm just looking at myself and I think I wasn't as active as I should've been. So I'm looking at that."


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