Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. available vs. 76ers, ending injury absences

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Rob Schaefer
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Markkanen, Porter available vs. 76ers, ending injury absences originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. are back.

After extended injury absences, both forwards are listed as available on the team's injury report for Thursday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, which tips off a five-game-in-seven-nights homestand out of the All-Star break for the Bulls.

Markkanen missed the Bulls' last 13 games of the first half with a right shoulder sprain, and seven games early in the campaign on the league's COVID-19 protocol list for close contact with Chandler Hutchison, who tested positive for the virus. That adds up to 14 appearances out of 34 possible games.

“I feel good," Markkanen said after his first team practice back on Wednesday. "The team is playing well. I’m excited to get back, and I’m just trying to bring my effort and energy and just be aggressive and help the team whatever way I can."

Porter has endured nagging pain since tweaking his back in a Jan. 8 game at the Los Angeles Lakers, and missed the last 15 contests to rehab what the team termed spasms.

"I figured the problem out and we really strengthened up my core, my legs and stuff, to get back to being able to run and jump," Porter said. "My body is feeling really well right now, responded really well to conditioning.’’

Both stayed in Chicago over the break to continue rehabbing, and engaged in some contact workouts before Wednesday's practice. Bulls coach Billy Donovan said in pregame comments to reporters there will be "some kind of restriction" on each's minutes as they reintegrate. Markkanen last played Feb. 5, Porter Feb. 3.

"The physical contact for both of those guys has not been really high considering we're coming out of the All-Star break and then obviously the amount of time they were out. So a lot of it's going to be to see how they're doing," Donovan said. "I think playing either one of those guys into the mid-to-high 30s (minutes) wouldn't be the best thing. But we'll see how they're doing and see what their stints look like and see how they're feeling physically."

Markkanen averaged 19.1 points on career-high shooting splits in his 14 first-half appearances. Porter averaged 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game in his 16. They now look to build on that early-season production at a critical juncture.

The first matchup: A 76ers squad missing Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid due to contact tracing.

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