CHICAGO — The Bulls expect forward Lauri Markkanen to miss two to four weeks because of a sprained right shoulder, another setback for a 7-footer off to his best start as a pro.
The Bulls said Monday an MRI confirmed he has a sprained acromioclavicular joint. Markkanen was hurt Friday at Orlando when he was fouled by Magic forward Gary Clark early in the third quarter.
The Bulls lost 105-101 to Washington on Monday night. Zach LaVine, who scored 35 points, missed a game-tying layup in the final seconds for Chicago.
Coach Billy Donovan described the injury as a “bit freakish” with Markkanen “driving to the basket, being physical.”
Markkanen is averaging a career-high 19.1 points and 6.1 rebounds coming off a disappointing season. He is shooting 51% overall and about 40% on 3-pointers — both personal bests. Markkanen had back-to-back outings with 30 or more points against Portland and New York on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. He missed seven consecutive games early in the season because of COVID-19 protocols.
The No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Markkanen has not played in more than 52 games the past two seasons. He appeared in 50 last year as Chicago stumbled to a 22-43 record.
Markkanen is set to become a restricted free agent after he and the Bulls were unable to agree to a contract extension prior to the deadline in December.
“I don't know if organizationally, they'll be evaluating it as ‘Well, this guy got hurt a couple years ago. He got hurt again this year,'" said Donovan, in his first year as Chicago's coach. "I don't know if that would be fair to him.'”
Markkanen's injury leaves the Bulls without two frontcourt starters. Center Wendell Carter Jr. has been sidelined since Jan. 18 and is not expected back until at least the end of the month. The injuries complicate the Bulls' efforts to limit veteran Thaddeus Young's minutes.
Forward Otto Porter Jr. missed his fourth consecutive game Monday because of back spasms. And Chandler Hutchison was held out of his second in a row for personal reasons, though he remains with the team. Donovan had no timetable for his return.
“I can't really talk anymore about it,” Donovan said. "The conversations I've had with him have been absolutely terrific. I give him a lot of credit. He's handled himself like a complete pro. But right now, there are some things he needs to focus on personally."
The Wizards held Russell Westbrook out of the lineup because they were playing for the second time in as many days. Coach Scott Brooks hopes to have the nine-time All-Star and 2017 NBA MVP playing on both ends of back-to-backs “down the road.”