New Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen spoke with Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune (subscriber exclusive) in an extended conversation.
The 25-year-old has had a busy summer. Except it was one of the focal points in the deal that saw the Jazz Shipping All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell for the Cavaliers, Markkanen also played for his native Finland in Berlin for this year’s EuroBasket, achieving the tournament’s second-highest average. The team eventually fell to the quarterfinals.
This is the second consecutive off-season move that Markkanen has undergone during his burgeoning professional career. In the summer of 2021, he joined Cleveland in a sign-and-trade deal, signing a $67.5 million four-year contract. During his lone season with the 44-38 Cavaliers, the seven-footer, traditionally a power forward, started his first NBA career as the team’s small forward. In 61 games, all starts, he averaged 14.8 PPG on .445/.358/.868 shooting splits, 5.7 RPG and 1.3 APG.
Walden’s interview is worth reading in full, but here are some highlights from the conversation:
On Markkanen’s response to the trade:
“It was kind of a shock. I didn’t hear anything before, I didn’t see my name in rumors… It was emotional. I understand the business side of it so I don’t have any hard feelings. I thanked them for the opportunity I had. But the first moments were very emotional for me because we really liked Cleveland and thought we had found a home there.”Read:Former Michigan quarterback on Tagovailoa vs. Wolverines defense, superstar comparison for Terps freshman
On playing for his home country in this summer’s EuroBasket competition:
“[Finland’s standing among its EuroBasket rivals is] still work in progress. But [rewind] like it,  years ago when they made EuroBasket for the first time in a while – it’s been on the rise since… They were part of the World Cup in . It’s been going up for a while. I’m happy to be a part of it, and I understand its history. … I try to take this even further.”Read:One thing we learned about each NFL team in Week 2: Dolphins have best WR duo; Steelers have a QB problem
On how close he came to attending the University of Utah as a college prospect in 2016:
“Utah was my first visit. I was visiting with my father and I remember joking to him, ‘Should I go to the other two places? Because I feel comfortable there.’ I was pretty sure I was going to Utah… But then we cleared our heads and made the other two visits. And my gut feeling [was strong] when I arrived in Arizona.”