Lauri Markkanen: 'Pressure brings a lot of joy to playing basketball'

2022-09-02 11:20

Lauri Markkanen is the biggest star on the Finnish roster but he doesn't pay extra attention to the fact that he is going to be the center of opponents' defenses. In fact, he enjoys it.

Credit: FIBA

Lauri Markkanen is the undisputed leader of the Finnish national team. With him on the roster, the Nordic country is entirely different on the court.

Markkanen got traded from Cleveland Cavaliers last evening to the Utah Jazz in a package centered around acquiring Donovan Mitchell. Today, he is set to play against Israel in EuroBasket 2022 opening match in Prague.

The teams have recently met with both of them battling in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers just a week ago. Finland ultimately prevailed and became the first team to advance to the World Cup from Europe after three favorable outcomes during the second part of the Qualifiers window.

Markkanen averaged 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 21.5 PIR points in the two official matches in August. Undoubtedly, all opponents' eyes are on him all the time when he's on the court.

"It's fun to play and I don't take too much pressure from it. I've been playing under the brightest lights for a few years. I'm used to pressure situations, and that brings a lot of joy to playing basketball," the forward downplayed it.

"You have to try to play as well as you can," he continued. "The biggest thing is to understand that you may get special treatment and not lose your temper and keep a cool head."

In a group that doesn't feature a clear-cut second team behind presumed favorite Serbia, winning the first match of the tournament will be crucial both for Finland and Israel.

"When the viewers expect something, it becomes an additional boost," Markkanen told.

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