In what Fred Hoiberg called a “big step,” Nikola Mirotic was slated to return to the Bulls practice facility ON Tuesday afternoon to get some light supervised activity in for the first time since being punched by Bobby Portis.
The glitch in that step is Mirotic was going to the Advocate Center after the team departed for Miami to start its two-game road trip, so he wouldn’t actually have to encounter the coaching staff or his teammates.
“I think it’s a big step. Niko will be in here this afternoon,” Hoiberg said. “We’re going to leave a trainer back to supervise his workouts. But it’s a good first step to get him feeling better. He’ll hopefully have good workouts; be able to do a little more every day. It’d be good to see him when we get back.”
But his intentions of wanting out of Chicago haven’t changed, as reported by NBCSportsChicago.com and other media outlets. He’s still willing to give up his no-trade clause to be traded if Portis is still around.
The Bulls picked up Portis’ option for next season a few days ago, so it’s not known if the Bulls are committed to making a deal one way or the other. Executive Vice President John Paxson said Mirotic won’t have facial surgery to repair his broken bones, so his 4-to-6-week recovery period will begin when he’s out of concussion protocol.
As for wanting to be in a Bulls uniform after that period passes, it appears to be a wait-and-see proposition as he can’t be traded until January 15 at the earliest. Either way, it leaves Hoiberg in yet another awkward position to answer questions he’s ill-equipped to answer—or questions he doesn’t have an answer for.
“Again, the important thing is Niko’s going to get back in here for the first time to get active again,” Hoiberg said. “And then that’s the next step is to get the group back together and then hopefully move on from it.”
That was an answer to a question about Portis and Mirotic being in the same room, so Hoiberg has been deflecting and will continue to deflect or defer to Paxson, especially since Paxson is much more visible publicly than he’s been in seasons past.
With things being the status quo, the same appears to be the case headed into Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat. Jerian Grant will start at point guard, holding off Kris Dunn for the time being.
“I think the big thing is they have to bring us a defensive presence out there. They have to be able to get us into an offense,” Hoiberg said. “We try to get those guys reading situations on how teams are playing us. Every team has played us differently with different switching, with different pressure, and we have to read better the pressure releases we have out there, the switch attacks that we have and get into it quicker.”
Grant, who’s shooting 1-for-16 from 3-point range, knows Dunn is breathing down his neck, figuratively, so he’s taking the open competition personally. Miami’s Goran Dragic will provide much more of a challenge than what he sees in practice, though.
“I gotta play better, I'm not playing the way I need to play,” Grant said. “At the same time I wanna show these guys I am the guy that can hold down this spot.”
When asked to evaluate his play, Grant was pretty direct and also said Hoiberg doesn’t have to have any talks with him. He knows his numbers and the expectations.
“Just not making shots. As far as getting guys involved, defense and trying to rebound a little bit more,” he said. “But other than making shots I think I've been alright. Getting guys involved and making plays but, at the end of the day it's a shot making league and that's what I gotta do.”