Orlando, Fla. , Utah Jazz Ahead Laurie Markkanen Having the type of breakout season he always knew was possible.
Markkanen, who earned his first All-Star nod this year, scored 31 points and hit the game-sealing shot in a 131-124 win on Thursday night. Orlando MagicContinuing the stellar season that set him up to earn the NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
“With that confidence, being in the right system, with the right teammates, I think it’s just — keep working and I think preparation is meeting opportunity, right?” Markkanen later told ESPN.
But Markkanen, 25, having just finished his best season ever, is trying to turn his attention to the future. While he hopes to win the Most Improved Player award, he also wants the Jazz to continue improving as a group. Thursday’s win improved Utah to 32–35, leaving the Jazz a half-game out of the final play-in spot in the West.
“It’s some extra motivation, but I’m not really thinking about it,” Markkanen, a sixth-year player, said of the award. “I talked about the responsibility, and I’m enjoying the challenge, and if those are personal goals, if we keep winning games and I keep doing my job. I go to work every day, And I hope that happens, but we’ll see. Just try to put these wins together and keep going from there, but obviously it would be a great trophy to have at home, but that’s not the main goal right now Is.
The main goal for Markkanen is to improve in a sport that seems to be getting better and better every night. Jazz coach Will Hardy noted before Thursday’s win that he still sees plenty of “room for growth” as Markkanen grows more confident, adding, “I don’t know if we’re close to the ceiling yet.”
For Markkanen, the trade to Utah last summer, which brought the former Jazz star donovan mitchell As far as cleveland cavaliers, has paid immediate dividends for a player who has finally lived up to the potential of being viewed as the No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft. He averaged 25.5 points on 51.3% shooting from the field, easily surpassing his previous career bests of 18.7 points and 48% shooting, while both Chicago Bulls,
But as Markkanen’s reputation has grown in the league, he hasn’t lost his admiration for what got him to this point. Bulls acquire Markkanen in draft-night trade Minnesota Timberwolves, It was always believed that he could become this type of player, but he was very inconsistent at the beginning of his career. This led to him being dealt to the Cavs in August 2021 in a three-team sign-and-trade.
Markkanen was asked if he ever looks back and wishes that his last two teams had not abandoned him.
“You can always look back,” he said. “I think staying with a team throughout my career was the goal for everyone, but in reality it doesn’t happen very often. The way things were going, I might not have been the player I am today. I was playing 4 position [in Chicago], I went to Cleveland, I played 3. Obviously, the team worked on my body so I was able to play 3.
“So I don’t have any bad feelings towards anyone [my previous teams], They were using me for what was best for them, and I was not the player I am today. I wasn’t that in Chicago. No ill feelings towards them. It’s always fun to go back and talk to the boys.”
Markkanen was quick to point to his Jazz teammates, as well as Hardy and his coaching staff, when asked why it has clicked so well for him in Utah after stints with the Bulls and Cavaliers.
“Confidence is obviously good, but being in the right place, being with the right coaching staff, being with the right system, just me using my strengths I would say,” Markkanen said, noting that Hardy could not make it through this season. I am “empowering” them.
Hardy said he has seen an increase in Markkanen’s mental game in describing his overall improvement this season, adding that Markkanen “has grown into the mindset of the go-getter.” Hardie said he appreciated the way Markkanen continued to develop his approach, admitting that “it’s incredibly difficult” to step up to being the main man in a team.
“It’s a lot of pressure every night,” Hardy said. “It’s a different mindset you have to have. He understands that his attitude is just as important as actually converting plays on the court because he’s the leader of the team and the rest follow. I’m really proud of him.” Is.” The way he approaches each game as the season goes on, because he’s the frontrunner in our group.”
Markken was quick to smile when asked about the difference between a guy who is counted on to make one big shot and a guy who is counted on to make a big shot every night.
“I think I’m getting more and more comfortable in those situations,” he said. “Really, the only way you get them is game reps. Sometimes you miss, sometimes you make them. I think just trying to get better and get to my spot. So It sounds good.
Markkanen said:[Hardy has] challenged me to do that, and I’m trying to live up to that responsibility. It doesn’t always mean I’m shooting it, but just making the right play. I think that’s the biggest thing. Even if it’s a shot or if it’s a pass or whatever it is, just try and get in and if I drive it’s going to destroy the defense. So I’m enjoying the challenge.”
Markkanen said he would have liked to have made the All-Star team earlier in his career, rather than being on his third team as a sixth-year pro, but he acknowledged that “not every story is the same. “
“I appreciate the down time too,” he said. “I think that’s why I’m the player that I am today, really the person that I am today. Because I was really in a dark place mentally at times, because I had high expectations of myself and I Wasn’t performing. So I think only remembering the tough times makes you appreciate the All-Star nod. Getting the opportunity to be the man at the end of the game, you appreciate that you had some tough times. After. “