SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Lauri Markkanen may not play in another game this season, as he recovers from a hand injury. But after the Jazz season ends, Markkanen will complete his mandatory military service for his native country of Finland.
“It’s mandatory, we have to do it, but at the same time we take pride in it, too,” Markkanen told ESPN. “I think it sets an example to serve. And I’m confident I can do it in a way that it’s not going to affect my preparation for next season, either.”
All male citizens of the nation must do their duty by age 30. Markkanen is 25.
His report date will be determined by Utah’s postseason schedule. He could begin his service as early as mid- to late April or as late as July, per ESPN.
The Jazz (36-43) have three games remaining on the season and are in 12th place in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games out of the final play-in position. They will have a better inkling of their playoff fate after Thursday night’s home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder — one of two teams they would need to leapfrog to reach the play-in round
Markkanen, in his first season in Utah, has had his best NBA campaign with averages of 25.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. He arrived in Utah in September as part of the trade that sent Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland.
He played his first four seasons with the Chicago Bulls are being selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
While in Finland, he will train to become part of a reconnaissance squad that could see action either in an emergency or a war.
Finland, which shares an 832-mile border with Russia, applied to become a member of NATO following Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decision to begin military operations in Ukraine in early 2022. That application was approved this week.
ESPN said Markkanen will train at the Defence Forces’ Sports School, where he can complete his offseason workouts.
“Of course I’d rather be working out like I normally do (in the offseason), but I’ve heard they do a good job of combining the two,” Markkanen told the network. “You’re able to do your job working as an athlete and your basic training at the same time.”
It was unclear how long Markkanen would be out of the United States. The requirement is for six months of service, but some NHL players from Finland have split up the duty over a few offseasons.