Bulls

John Paxson: No easy solution to Nikola Mirotic-Bobby Portis situation

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AP

John Paxson: No easy solution to Nikola Mirotic-Bobby Portis situation

Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson addressed the media Friday at the team’s practice, in light of the new developments surrounding Nikola Mirotic’s trade request.

Still recovering from the effects of a concussion and broken facial bones at the hands of teammate Bobby Portis, there appears to be a disconnect between Mirotic and the team — hence the trade request that Paxson would neither confirm nor deny.

But the mere fact Paxson came over to speak to the media confirms things are reaching critical mass and he admits there are no easy answers.

“We’re really sensitive to this entire issue and what Niko is going through physically and mentally,” Paxson said. “We’re trying to be sensitive to him. We don’t have all the answers today. But just like in anything, as an organization we have to do what’s in our best interests. That’s the bottom line. And so we will.”

Mirotic has a no-trade clause but is willing to waive it in order to leave Chicago — or more directly the specter of having to be in the same locker room as Portis. With the situation being so public, it’s hard to see the Bulls rushing to make a deal involving either player, even with the rise of rookie Lauri Markkanen lessening the necessity for both.

It’s harder to see a team offering an asset to the Bulls’ liking and opposing teams are doing background work on Portis to see what he’s like in the locker room, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com.

Although the Bulls would like this to be wrapped up in a neat bow, there’s no smooth transition and any solution will be messy.

“We have to operate ... today is the day we’re going to try to move this forward a little bit,” Paxson said. “Niko has the opportunity to do some light physical work. We need to have him do that under our supervision. We’re going to go day to day with it.”

Portis is practicing through his eight-game suspension while Mirotic will be out an additional four-to-six weeks once he clears concussion protocol.

There’s a thought from Mirotic’s camp the Bulls were too light with Portis but Paxson said there wasn’t any guidelines for a suspension.

“There’s always two sides,” Paxson said. “In doling out the punishment to Bobby, that’s fairly unprecedented too what we did. Like I told you last week, we consulted with the league to make sure we were going about it the right way.

“We’re confident with what we did. I’ve never been in Niko’s position where something like that happens. We are trying to understand it and work with him and his people. But we can’t just do something for the sake of doing it. It has to be in our best interest too.”

Teammates have reached out to Mirotic but aside from Robin Lopez and a couple others including coach Fred Hoiberg, he appears to be distant as a whole. He does communicate with the medical staff but has come to the Advocate Center during off hours as opposed to when the team is in the building.

“The biggest focus that I need to have right now is to worry about getting our guys to continue to grow as a basketball team,” Hoiberg said. “The players are doing a really good job of focusing on the task at hand, and they’re doing everything we’ve been asking them to do.”

With this being such a young team dealing with drama the franchise should be more proactive as opposed to letting things settle itself.

“I don’t have that answer right now. I really don’t,” Paxson said. “Your hope is that as time goes on, there can be some communication where it gets resolved. But this is a unique situation. It really is.”

When Paxson was asked if the Bulls should facilitate communication and get Mirotic and Portis in a room, he said, “we’re not there yet”.

“But we’re supportive of Niko and what he’s going through,” Paxson said. “We support Bobby too. He’s a part of our team. You sit here in my position, Gar’s position, ownership’s position and you see it’s a distraction. But we also have to keep these young guys focused on what they’re doing.”

What makes matters more complicated is Mirotic isn’t even eligible to be traded until mid-January so even if he is to be moved it can’t happen for at least two and a half months.

Hence, Paxson admitting there aren’t any easy answers.

“We have to be patient. It’s not something that’s going to be resolved overnight,” Paxson said. “We’re going to continue to communicate with Niko and his representatives and find our way through this. It’s very important for us to do what’s in our best interest.”

Paxson reiterated the franchise is sensitive to Mirotic’s circumstance, being punched by a teammate and the damage it caused, while adding Mirotic has been cleared for light supervised activity such as bike riding.

Paxson said he hopes to see Mirotic around soon but added, “We’re trying to be sensitive to his feelings and what he has expressed to us.”

And Mirotic has made it known the status quo will not do, as Paxson said they won’t force Mirotic one way or another, even as Mirotic is trying to force movement of some kind.

“I think we’re going to follow his lead right now,” Paxson said.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.