Nikola Mirotic continues to work out with the Chicago Bulls at practice. The topic of Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis taking to each other in those sessions? That storyline remains the same as it has been.
Mirotic returned to practice yesterday after not being a part of them for more than a month. He and Portis got into their post-practice scuffle on Oct. 17 and since then, Mirotic and Portis have not spoken to each other.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times has more on the situation from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and some Bulls players, who discussed the situation:
“Obviously Niko and Bobby have not talked,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of the drawn-out drama. “Bobby talked about that [Monday]. Niko has had interaction with other players and we’ll continue to work on it. Niko will continue to come in here and get his work in. Continue to ramp up his workload and hopefully be cleared for more on court activity soon. To this point, no, there’s been no communication with Bobby and Niko.’’
Not the progress that was hoped for after VP of basketball operations John Paxson made it very clear on Monday that Mirotic has been asked to be around his teammates more often, with the hope that would eventually simmer the cold war.
Instead, it’s everyone else having to answer questions about Portis sending Mirotic to the hospital with two broken bones in his face and a concussion after punching him in an Oct. 17 practice altercation.
“I’m trying to be,’’ veteran Robin Lopez said, when asked if it’s been tough to be a team leader throughout this on-going ordeal. “It’s a bit of a difficult situation, something I haven’t dealt with before. Like you said, both of those guys are my guys. I have both their best interest at heart. I’m going to do what I can to help both of them. But also, I’ve got to help the team. We’ve got to play basketball.’’
“It’s a very difficult situation, obviously,’’ Lopez said. “I didn’t pick up on any awkwardness [with both in the facility at the same time]. I think guys are coming in there focused on basketball. They’re focused on helping the team out as much as possible.’’
Lopez says he wants to do what he can to help both players and yet also help the team.
"I've talked to Niko a few times," Lopez told ESPN's Nick Friedell before Tuesday's practice. "I went out to dinner with him and Cris [Felicio], but I'm not going to divulge anything about [those conversations]. He told me that stuff in confidence."
Robin Lopez says he has spoken to Niko Mirotic and knows that his teammate wants "to be back with the guys," but Mirotic and Portis have yet to speak. Lopez says he has not been asked to facilitate a conversation between the two of them.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) November 14, 2017
"I've talked... https://t.co/Rs3lpBWeED
Mirotic had been working out at the Advocate Center in Chicago over the last few days, while Portis has since been back in the Bulls' lineup for the last three games. The Bulls will face the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road tomorrow night (8 ET, NBA League Pass).
Yesterday, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson addressed Mirotic's return to practice as did Portis. Paxson wouldn't say if Mirotic's previous request for a trade had been rescinded. As well, Paxson said it's "incumbent on Mirotic to be around more" and be a part of the team. Portis said he is "here to play basketball" and that if Mirotic approaches him "I'll welcome him with open arms."
The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson was on hand for today's practice and has more on the overall vibe between Portis and Mirotic:
As the Bulls practiced at the Advocate Center, Nikola Mirotic first sat in the trainer’s room and then lifted weights in the background, his first time rejoining his teammates since Bobby Portis drew an eight-game suspension for his Oct. 17 punch that caused the above damage.
Nevertheless, Portis said he still hadn’t talked to Mirotic, who has told management he doesn’t want to share a locker room with Portis moving forward.
“I’d react normal,” Portis said, when asked what he’d do if Mirotic approached him. “I’m a normal guy. I’m a high character guy, low maintenance guy. I’d welcome him in with open arms.”
“What has to be understood is that we weren’t going to be in a position to continuously accommodate those needs,” Paxson said of Mirotic previously working out after hours and away from the team. “When he started to get healthy, because he’s on our roster, it’s incumbent on him to be around when the team’s around. That’s just a part of it. I look at it this way: We want him to start coming around more. And it is on him to do that.”
Asked if it’s weird that Mirotic and Portis are in the same gym and not talking, Paxson said: “They are adults. This is our workplace. They’re both part of the team. I think it’s pretty simple.”
Paxson also said that while Mirotic and Portis are both on the roster, the situation between them must be resolved soon.
Pax: "Both Niko and Bobby are on our roster right now. And Niko’s getting cleared to do more and more. This obviously is coming to a position where it’s going to have to be resolved between the two." Reminder: Mirotic can't be traded until Jan. 15.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 13, 2017
Bulls initially said Mirotic would miss 4-6 weeks. Tomorrow is 4 weeks. Pax: "The timeline for him getting back is all how he’s feeling and recovering from what he went through. He obviously has to get his conditioning up to a level that he needs to. That’s all a process."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 13, 2017