It probably was a good day Monday for Nikola Mirotic. After all, he didn’t miss a shot, and pretty much everyone else on the Bulls did in a four for 35 three-point shooting game in the Summer League in the 75-55 Bulls loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Mirotic remains a free agent. He has been negotiating with the Bulls as well as other teams, but the market seems to be shrinking. Bulls General Manager Gar Forman said the Bulls remain optimistic they will resign Mirotic.
“Yes, we are (optimistic about bringing back Mirotic),” Forman said. “Because we want Niko back and we think Niko wants to be in Chicago. Usually when you have those two things, at the end of the day there’s usually a way to get something done.”
Mirotic and the Bulls apparently have not been able to agree on a contract amount. But as a restricted free agent with the Bulls able to match an offer, there apparently has been a hesitance around the NBA with teams to make a substantial offer to Mirotic, who has been inconsistent his three seasons with the Bulls.
The 26-year-old Mirotic saw his scoring average drop this season from 11.8 per game to 10.6. His three-point shooting also fell, from 39 percent to 34 percent. He is a career 35 percent three-point shooter in three seasons with the Bulls. The Bulls also used their lottery pick from the Jimmy Butler trade for three-point shooting big man Lauri Markkanen.
Forman in a post game session Monday with reporters at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas also addressed several other issues with the team:
--- Forman said there have been no discussions regarding a potential buyout of the contract of Dwyane Wade;
--- Forman said the coaching staff will remain, essentially unchanged, with perhaps a minor change of an assistant who sits in the second row of coaches;
--- The Bulls officially announced the signing of Justin Holiday, the former Bull who went to the Knicks in the Derrick Rose trade.
“Length, athleticism, a guy who can defend on the perimeter and make a perimeter shot,” Forman said about the team’s continued attraction with Holiday. “We had him. So we love what he brings to the chemistry of a team. He’s our kind of guy. We were real excited when we were able to get that done the first couple days. He’s still somewhat young. He fits the direction we’re headed.”
---- Kris Dunn had to leave Summer League Monday for “a personal family issue that he needs to attend to. Obviously, we’re supporting him fully. He’s fine (physically),” said Forman;
---- Paul Zipser is day to day with an ankle sprain;
----- What of the declining level of talent in the Eastern Conference? Could this Bulls team make the playoffs? Responded Forman: “We look at it as far as what we need to do, what we feel we need to do in a rebuild. You never know until you’re in somebody else’s shoes as far as what’s going on. But I do know that we feel really good as far as taking a step back, the direction we can now head as far as rebuilding around these young guys, and continuing to add to that.’’
----- The progress from surgery of Zach LaVine. Said Forman: “We haven’t put a timeline or date on it, but I do know that we’ll be really conservative in that we look at this as a big-window move as far as bringing Zach (back to play) at 22 years old. He’s been fantastic. He’s been in our gym working out, working with our athletic performance staff. He came out here (to Las Vegas) and spent some time with the young players and continues to work with our staff. So we’ll be cautious. What that means? We won’t know until we get into the season and see exactly where he’s at."
---- On more roster moves, Forman said: “That’s something we’ll continue to look at. Yeah. We think we have some good veterans in Robin (Lopez) and Dwyane, and even some of the young veterans we have. But we’ve got some roster spots and we’re continuing to have conversations as far as adding a player or two.
“We have great, great fans; we have passionate fans,” said Forman. “That’s one of the pluses in being in Chicago is that they’re very passionate about the Bulls. We understand that it’s always hard when you have had a level of success, and then you’ve got to take a step back and go in a new direction as far as a rebuild is concerned. And we know that it’s going to be a process and there’s going to be ups and downs within that process, but we think the trade gave us a step in the right direction as far as heading that way, where we got three young players who we really like. And we continue to keep a great level of flexibility. The big thing for us now is to integrate these young guys in, continue to develop the young guys that we have from the previous year. Continue to keep a level of flexibility where we can add assets, whether it’s via trade because of the cap room or the flexibility that we have. We have a $15 million trade exception with Jimmy, and we’ve all seen where last year there was a spike, there was a huge bump and a very active market. I think we’re seeing the market suppress some this summer, and I think as we go into next summer as the cap is flattening, the ability to have young players, develop those young players, have flexibility in order to add assets, and then draft picks will get us a step up in trying to go forward. The key now will be player development, this group continuing to work, continuing to develop, continuing to play hard, and the fans seeing progress with this group over the next year or two and continuing to add to it and these guys get better.’’