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Nikola Mirotic practices with Chicago Bulls for first time since altercation

From NBA media reports

Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is edging his way back to playing again, as he participated in his first practice with the team since getting into an altercation with Bobby Portis more than a month ago. Mirotic had been working out at the Bulls’ practice facility for a few weeks, doing weight-lifting work and other conditioning drills while the team practiced.

Monday, however, marked his first full practice with the team, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Mirotic ran through some pre-practice sets with Zach LaVine and Jerian Grant and took some “light contact”, too.

And while there was still no timetable for his return to actual game play, according to coach Fred Hoiberg, it was definitely progress in adding another scoring threat from the outside.

“As far as what he can provide on the floor, he’s obviously a guy who has a lot of experience playing at the professional level, a lot of years overseas,’’ Hoiberg said. “He has had some really good moments in this league and given us some great production. Getting him back out here is certainly a step in the right direction.’’

One of many steps that have to take place, however.

There has still been no contact between Mirotic and Portis since the practice altercation, and the Sun-Times reported last month that Mirotic and his camp issued an ultimatum to the Bulls that either Portis had to go or he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause so that he could go when he’s eligible to be traded in mid-January.

How the Portis-Mirotic dynamic resolves itself while the two are teammates remains to be seen. Cowley reports that veteran center Robin Lopez noted that he’s had teammates in the past he did not like, but simply communicated with on a basketball-only level and things worked out fine.

“I think that’s a possibility,’’ Lopez said, when asked about them keeping any chatter to just basketball. “If everything is going well on the basketball court, they’re doing their jobs, performing their duties, I don’t see why not. I would hope that it would go beyond that, but if it comes to that I think it’s good, it’s typical.’’

“I think that’s something a lot of people have encountered in the league, it’s a very competitive league,’’ Lopez said. “But we’re professionals for a reason, right?’’

“And I think that’s the job of all of us,’’ Lopez said of helping both players come together. “That’s a job for anybody that’s being part of a basketball team.

“I think we’re a step closer to being at full strength. I’ve had a locker next to Niko. I love being next to the guy. I love having him with us right now.’’

The Bulls’ next game is tomorrow night vs. the Phoenix Suns (8 ET, NBA League Pass) before they travel to Denver on Thursday (9 ET, NBA League Pass) to face the Nuggets. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports Mirotic will travel with the team to Denver for that game.