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‘It definitely hits you’: Lauri Markkanen on dealing with emptiness of losing teammates due to trades

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen shoots a free throw during a game vs. Oklahoma City Thunder at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. On Friday, a day after three of his teammates were traded, the Jazz forward opened up about what it feels like to have teammates traded.

Lauri Markkanen described his emotions over the last two days as “wild.”

It’s not like NBA players aren’t anticipating the trade deadline and it’s not like they don’t know what it’s like to lose teammates in trades. Markkanen has been traded three times himself and the Utah Jazz went through similar retooling last season. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s gonna take some time to get used to. And like I said, it happens every year, but there’s the same empty feeling every year.” — Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen

“It’s part of the business and you go through it every year,” Markkanen said. “But I don’t think you get used to it. You’re good friends with those guys, and you obviously want the best for them and for their careers, but at the same time you want to spend as much time with them as possible.”

On Wednesday the Jazz traded Simone Fontecchio to the Detroit Pistons and Thursday they moved Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji to the Toronto Raptors.

It’s not always the in-game moments that hit the hardest when players are traded. Of course the Jazz players saw different lineups on Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns and recognized that three of their rotational players are no longer around.

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But there are other moments when the change seems to sink in deeper. Like on Friday at Jazz practice, when Markkanen was shooting by himself at a hoop, rather than with Olynyk as he’d done every day for the last year-and-a-half

“You go to the bus after the game and we all sit together on the bus and now it’s a bunch of empty seats in front of you,” Markkanen said. ”Just everyday little stuff like that, it definitely hits you. All of a sudden I have different guys shooting with me at my pregame shooting time rather than Simone. So, it’s gonna take some time to get used to. And like I said, it happens every year, but there’s the same empty feeling every year.”

As the team works through what things are going to look like from a basketball perspective, Markkanen said he will try to focus on the things he can control and make sure that he leads the young players on the team through this process, as many of them are experiencing it for the first time.

“It’s kind of tough, because you build relationships with those guys,” rookie Taylor Hendricks said. “And those guys are really good guys in the locker room. But at the end of the day, we’re getting paid a lot of money to go through things like that. So, you can’t really complain.”

Jazz rookie Taylor Hendricks talks to members of the media during Utah Jazz media day at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jazz rookie Taylor Hendricks talks to members of the media during Utah Jazz media day at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News