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Lauri Markkanen to start for Chicago Bulls in their season opener

The Bulls are a disaster right now, but at least that means Markkanen will be playing early and often in his rookie season

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It sure didn’t take long for Lauri Markkanen to become a starter in the NBA.

Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg announced Wednesday that the former Arizona Wildcat will start at power forward in the team’s season-opener vs. the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

But really the Bulls almost had no choice but to start Markkanen. Some crazy things happened Tuesday.

Bulls power forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic got into an altercation at practice which led to Portis breaking Mirotic’s face with a “surprise punch.”

Mirotic was hospitalized, diagnosed with maxillary fractures and a concussion, will likely undergo surgery and isn’t expected back anytime soon.

Portis, meanwhile, has been suspended for the first eight games of the season.

With those two out, Markkanen and Cristiano Felicio are the Bulls’ only power forwards, and Hoiberg opted to start the ex-Wildcat.

Markkanen, who was drafted seventh overall in June by the Minnesota Timberwolves and traded to Chicago for All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, averaged 11.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in three preseason games.

The 7-footer shot 12-30 (40 percent) from the field, and 7-18 (38 percent) from 3, plus 4-5 from the free throw line.

Markkanen scored 18 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 10.

The rebuilding Bulls are expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, and have already been an embarrassment with the incident between Portis and Mirotic, but at least that means Markkanen will be playing early and often in his rookie season.

Hopefully he makes the most of it and becomes a permanent fixture in Chicago’s starting five.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire