It’s all about fun for Bulls’ Markkanen and Dunn as NBA Rising Stars selections

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CHICAGO – Sometimes simple honors like this can be under or underappreciated.

For a franchise that’s looking to rebuild with a youth moment, what was bestowed upon two of the Bulls’ players on Wednesday was pretty significant. Rookie forward Lauri Markkanen and second-year guard Kris Dunn were named as participants in the NBA’s Rising Stars Game during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles in February.

Getting two of their young faces of the franchise into the February 16th contests at the Staples Center could be considered a major victory for the rebuilding project of John Paxson and Gar Forman. Those two players were key to the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota, which so far has proved to be fruitful so far.

For a pair of front office people who have taken a lot of heat, it’s a victory in what figures to be a lengthy rebuild. Not to mention the fact that the honor gives a boost to the player’s own self assurance in the start of their careers.

“It feels great. It gives me a ton of confidence moving forward,” said Markkanen of the selection.

Yet there is something a little more simple about the honor – just some good fun. Sometimes over thinking the honor takes away the simple enjoyment of getting a chance to match-up against some of the best young players in the league.

At least that’s how Fred Hoiberg looks at it for his two players, the only ones who will be heading to Los Angeles for the game this year. For the first time since 2009, and not surprisingly, the Bulls won’t have a representative in Sunday, February 18th’s All-Star Game.

“Just have fun and experience the All-Star Weekend,” said Hoiberg when asked what he wanted to guys to get out of the game. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s a great honor, but for them it’s all about going out there and having fun.”

Markkanen plans to do so because of the fact that he’ll be going up against his teammate Dunn. Lauri, whose averaging 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, plays for the World team while Dunn (13.7 points, 6.4 assists a game) will suit up for the US team.

That is, of course, whenever the guard returns from a concussion suffered against the Warriors on January 17th. There’s no update on a possible return as of Thursday with the guard already missing the last four games and likely the contest against Lakers on Friday.

But when he returns, Markkanen will be happy to get him back to work with him for success with the Bulls and stop him on February 16th in Los Angeles.

“He’s gonna iso me a little bit,” said Markkanen jokingly of matching-up with Dunn. “But we’re trying to go out there and get the win.”

Just don’t forget to have a little fun too.