Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is expected to be out at least a month as he recovers from the facial injuries he suffered in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis. His return to the Bulls' lineup, though, may be in question -- and not because of his health.
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According to Vincent Goodwill of NBCSportsChicago.com and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Mirotic -- depending on who is reporting the story -- could be willing to waive his no-trade clause. According to both reports, the Bulls are facing a decision of whether to keep either Portis or Mirotic (but not both of them).
Mirotic prefers a trade out of Chicago—which won’t be available to the Bulls until mid-January at the earliest because he was a free agent this summer—and is willing to waive his no-trade clause to do so, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com.
It’s been described by one source as “one of them has to go” and the Bulls are aware of the tenuous situation. Mirotic agreed to a two-year contract with the Bulls on the eve of training camp, with the second year being a team option.
Several teammates have reached out to Mirotic following his concussion and he has talked to Robin Lopez along with Hoiberg but it’s clear he has no intention of returning to the status quo whenever he does recover.
The Bulls have talked to at least one team about Portis, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com and that activity promises to continue over the next few days.
The Bulls have until Oct 31 to pick up Portis’ team option for next season and if they move him, one would think the team that acquires Portis would like to make that decision as opposed to it being made for them.
According to Johnson, the trade request may not be as firm, but it is still on the table for Mirotic:
First, coach Fred Hoiberg said Mirotic didn't get cleared via the league's concussion protocol after visiting a specialist on Wednesday.
Then, sources said Mirotic's camp has made clear to management that Mirotic wouldn't veto a trade, a change of heart for the forward who long has professed his and his family's desire to remain in Chicago. Mirotic has the right to veto a trade because the two-year, $27 million deal he signed in restricted free agency has a team option on the second year.
Whatever happens, this development speaks to the widespread belief surrounding the situation that Mirotic and Portis can't co-exist moving forward. In fact, one source said the situation is playing out toward a "me or him" trade demand.
Mirotic can't be traded until Jan. 15.
Management long has appreciated Portis' work ethic and commitment to team, displayed again as he held a leadership role in the team's offseason program. Mirotic, meanwhile, didn't play for the Spanish national team or do much at the Bulls' practice facility other than shoot and lift — bulking up to 260 pounds — because he didn't have a contract.
Given that the team has publicly stated the desire to build a hardworking culture with young, hungry players, there is some thought that Portis better fits that direction. Either way, Lauri Markkanen projects to be the long-term starter — if not the short-term one as well.
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