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PORTLAND, Ore. — There were more than a handful of excuses a few weeks ago, and Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen was well-versed in all of them.
A new system, new teammates, a sore oblique, needing the ball more to get into a rhythm, better communication. Pick one, any one, and believe what you want.
But after practice Sunday at Portland State University, Markkanen offered no excuses. The only place he wanted to put the blame was on himself.
‘‘I can’t really say anything about [the system] at this point,’’ Markkanen said. ‘‘We’ve played a good amount of games now in this system already, so it should have come.’’
It hasn’t. Markkanen has been the biggest disappointment on the Bulls’ roster and among the biggest in the NBA. Through 20 games, he is averaging 13.3 points and seven rebounds and is shooting 34.9 percent from the field, including 28.2 percent from three-point range.
This from a player who averaged 18.7 points and nine rebounds last season and, along with guard Zach LaVine, was one of the pillars upon whom the Bulls’ rebuild was relying.
The biggest indictment of how bad things have been for Markkanen has come late in close games. There have been a handful of games in which coach Jim Boylen has benched Markkanen in favor of guard Ryan Arcidiacono or guard Coby White.
No wonder Markkanen showed up an hour early to practice Sunday, looking to get some extra work in.
‘‘I believe he does,’’ Boylen said when he was asked if he thought Markkanen has the makeup to get out of his slump. ‘‘I believe he has the makeup to overcome a difficult situation, some adversity. Again, I go back to the work. If you work, I think you can fight through anything. You work and care, and I think he does care.
‘‘I want him to handle in-game adversity better, move to the next play, put that one behind you, win the next play. Those are kind of the things we talk about.’’
Much of that talk went on after practice, with Boylen calling Markkanen over for a quick heart-to-heart. He reminded him the three-pointer is falling in practice, has fallen the previous two seasons and will start falling again.
Markkanen was a 36.2 percent three-point shooter as a rookie and a 36.1 percent three-point shooter last season. Those are the numbers the Bulls believe in.
‘‘I’m not worried about my shot,’’ Markkanen said. ‘‘It’s going to come. I’ve shot it well in practice, so I know I can do it. I just have to do it in the game. That’s not a concern for me; it’s going to fall.
‘‘It’s more the overall play. Obviously, I put the highest pressure on myself, so I’m trying to reach that level. It’s been frustrating that I’m not getting there. At the same time, it works as motivation and keeps pushing me to work hard.’’
Boylen is trying to help in the motivation department.
‘‘I believe in his shooting,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I believe in him as a player. He came here an hour early this morning and got his workout in. Then he went through the full practice, so he’s doing what I think you have to do, which is work your way out of it. I’m confident he will.’’