So, Fred, this is John and Gar. We know two of your three leading scorers are not in Portland for Wednesday night's game. Make that three.
That may not have been how the conversation went Wednesday afternoon, but that was the result as Bulls management chose to sit out Nikola Mirotic pending a possible trade.
"I'll be straight up honest with you," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters pregame. "I got a call today and the decision was made to not play Niko tonight. So that's all I know at this point. We'll see how the night goes and then reassess everything tomorrow. That was the decision that was made. The way I am looking at it is to go out and compete with the players that are available. That was the decision this morning for Niko to play. And then things changed as the day progressed."
Hoiberg said Mirotic remained back at the team hotel for the game with the Portland Trailblazers. Hoiberg said he did not know if Mirotic would travel with the team Thursday to Los Angeles.
"He was good (with it)," Hoiberg said about Mirotic's reaction. "I believe it was mutual."
There was no indication of any new trade involving Mirotic or that the rumored trade with New Orleans was any closer. It seemed apparent the Bulls continued to engage in discussions about trading Mirotic and didn't want to risk an injury.
And that troublesome NBA insisted the Bulls continue to play games. Also lugging with them a four-game losing streak, the Bulls face Portland with Paul Zipser starting for Markkanen and Antonio Blakeney back from the G-league.
"The way I look at it is it's a great opportunity for guys that have been out of the rotation to get the chance to go out there and play meaningful minutes, starting with Paul Zipser," said Hoiberg. "And also Cris Felicio (in reserve). These guys have been working extremely hard, and these are the moments when you're in that position that you live for, to get this opportunity and hopefully go out there and take advantage of some minutes that they haven't been given. Hopefully they make an impact on the game.
"I've got a job to do and that's to try and put the players out there that are available to play in a position to go out there and compete," said Hoiberg. "That's first and foremost. Going out and hopefully playing at a high level from a competition standpoint. Hopefully getting off to a good start and giving ourselves a chance, which we struggled with the last two games. That's the way I'm looking at it, and that's to put the players in a position to hopefully give ourselves a chance to win the game. Fully understanding that we're down a lot of guys that provided production for this team."