Upbeat Lauri Not Concerned Over Health
"I wasn't really worried at any point. It wasn't scary. I was trying to come back and play the second half."
Lauri Markkanen always has had a big heart. He does public service announcements to help raise awareness of climate change, passes the ball, if anything, too much in deference to his teammates, and considers it a great day sitting on the floor playing games with his baby son.
Even more importantly, Markkanen believes he has a healthy heart.
That became a concern when Markkanen was removed from Tuesday’s game in Toronto after experiencing symptoms of an accelerated heart rate. He stayed overnight in Toronto for tests before rejoining the team in Chicago Wednesday. As a precaution, the Bulls decided Markkanen would sit out the rest of the regular season. He was back going through portions of practice Thursday, though he was wearing a monitor for additional testing and information.
“I wasn't really worried at any point,” Markkanen told reporters after practice. “I just kind of felt really weird (in Toronto); just kind of how I normally (feel) after a workout. I felt like I already finished a workout and that kind of stuff. Wasn't really worried at any point. It wasn't scary. I was (still) trying to come back and play the second half. We did some (testing) stuff back in the locker room, so it took a little bit of time and didn't come back (in time) and (then) did some other stuff staying overnight in Toronto. I wasn't worried at any point because I felt great up to that point.
I take pride in playing through (stuff) and even though I stayed the night in Toronto, I wanted to still play (Wednesday against Portland). I want to play no matter what. But got to be healthy to play.
“They're (family) not worried,” said Markkanen. “I tell them it's going to be fine and I'm really 100 percent confident of that being the case. So they feel good. Everything (test results) I’ve gotten so far is everything's good. We're monitoring me when I'm working out, so it's safe. We're trying to get some additional information, but everything's fine as of now.”
Though Markkanen will not play the final six games with the Raptors in the United Center Saturday, Markkanen will travel with the team to New York and Washington next week in an attempt to determine if there were other factors.
Markkanen indicated he considers the episode an aberration.
It’s obviously a concern when anyone suffers heart issues. It’s especially worrisome given some history of heart problems with NBA players. The Bulls appeared ready to sign Eddy Curry in 2005 to a longterm extension with the team going through a major turnaround and Curry playing at an All-Star level and leading the team in scoring. But he suffered a heart irregularity before a March game in Charlotte and missed the rest of the season with tests. Curry’s arrhythmia did not cause him any further issues in his career. But he and the Bulls could not agree on further heart testing and the Bulls ended up trading Curry to the Knicks.
Instances of rapid heart beats and arrhythmia are fairly common, though the Bulls decided to be extra cautious. That the team is out of playoff consideration apparently made the decision easier, though not for Markkanen, who wanted to keep playing.
“Obviously (disappointed),” Markkanen said after finishing the season playing just 52 games. “I missed the first, what, 23 games (with an elbow injury). So I took a lot of pride even if I had something small, just playing through it and not missing any more games. It's just unfortunate. I know health is the most important. I'm just frustrated that I can't play, but it is what it is. We haven't found out anything. So I'm telling myself that everything's going to be OK because we haven't found anything. Hopefully this is a one time (event).”
Markkanen was upbeat, smiling and bantering with reporters during his post practice interview session. He began by answering a question about he was doing by responding how the reporter was doing. He said everything was positive in testing, though he then smiled and said he knew positive could mean things were bad, meaning a positive finding of a problem. So in his wry way with reporters, he explained they needed to understand the distinction.
There were reports Markkanen had a similar experience after the four-overtime game in Atlanta, Markkanen said that was flu symptoms with a sore throat and that he kept playing.
Though after averaging 26 points and 12.5 rebounds in February and getting 31 points and 17 rebounds in 54 minutes in that Atlanta game, Markkanen scored at least 20 points in his next — and last — 12 games and had a six-game stretch averaging 13.5 points. He had 10 points and nine rebounds in 16 first half minutes in Toronto before his season ended prematurely.
“We're trying to act like I'm playing and do the same stuff,” Markkanen said about staying with the team. “I did the non-contact part of practice and I'm going to be traveling with the team, kind of living the normal NBA life and they’re going to see how it reacts to that. I told them I want to play before I got the information that they want me to sit out. Like I said, I take pride in playing through (stuff) and even though I stayed the night in Toronto, I wanted to still play (Wednesday against Portland). I want to play no matter what. But got to be healthy to play.”
Markkanen, who will be 22 in May, has missed 44 games in his two NBA seasons. But the seven footer from Finland says he’s going to be a finisher.
“Last year was more of a problem because I missed two games then I'd play 10 and miss another two,” said Markkanen about some back issues. “That was kind of frustrating, but other than these two, I didn't miss a game for any small stuff. It's just a total accident what happened to my elbow in September. So without these two things happening, I would play the whole year. So I'm not concerned.”
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