Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen showing he’s more than just a basketball player

DETROIT – Lauri Markkanen has been all in on getting back on the court.

Enough so that it’s been the Bulls front office and training staff that have been overly cautious with his right elbow injury, basically protecting the second-year player from himself.

Not the only passion Markkanen is currently all in on, either.

Markkanen, born and raised in Finland, has teamed with the Finland-based company Neste Global to get his message of climate change going, and it’s not a message he is taking lightly.

He already has a video of his campaign posted on his Twitter account, and even took a poke at President Trump, posing with a rake in one picture after the President talked about Finland raking the forest floors to help deter forest fires.

“Anybody need their floors raked?’’ Markkanen said in the post.

“I was just having fun,’’ Markkanen said Friday. “That was a carefully thought post, I’ll say that. I want people to see my personality and not just this [basketball player]. But at the same time, I want to be cautious because there are people who have lost everything [in the California fires]. So I didn’t want to go too far or anything. Just have a little fun. And I did donate [to the Red Cross] too. I felt like that was the way to go.’’

As far as why this campaign – #Don’tChoke – has so much meaning to him, his explanation was simple.

“I want to do that because I feel like I have the platform to try and make a change,’’ Markkanen said. “And that thing is really close to my heart. Just looking at where I grew up, having nature all around me, that was really important. We used to have all the snow in the world. But I don’t think we even have snow right now in Finland. And it’s almost December.

“That’s one obvious sign that something is happening, so I want to try and make a change.’’

Markkanen has given up red meat so he could start “minimizing my personal carbon footprint.’’

“I know a lot of people who are concerned about it,’’ Markkanen said. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily a big deal or not. But obviously we have 5.5 million people [in Finland] compared to how many millions of guys do you have? It’s harder to make a change here but you can see the results more.’’

As far as the results of his comeback, while coach Fred Hoiberg won’t come out and say it, expect Markkanen to make his season debut at some point next week.

He went through another full-contact practice on Thursday, an individual workout on Friday, and has had no setbacks whatsoever.

“We hope so,’’ Hoiberg said, when asked about next week happening. “We’re getting there. We’re getting closer, and we’re still taking it day-by-day, but the important thing now is he’s doing a little more each day with the contact.’’

Sager Strong

Both the Bulls and Pistons coaching staffs were wearing the Sager Strong T-shirts for the Friday game, in honor of former announcing legend Craig Sager. The NBA was calling Friday and Saturday, “Craig Sager Jacket Days’’ for cancer awareness.

“I was never interviewed by Craig as a player,’’ Hoiberg said. “The first time I was, was when I was coaching in the NCAA Tournament, and to have the opportunity to be interviewed by Craig was always something you thought about. To get that opportunity was really cool.

“We’ve all been touched by [cancer] one way or another, and just to be able to honor Craig by wearing this shirt and hopefully raise some awareness for cancer research is very important.’’

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