Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is out until after the All-Star break after he underwent an appendectomy in Chicago for acute appendicitis.
On the eve of the Bulls going on a seven-game western swing, Mirotic’s condition was announced and he won’t make the trip that will take the Bulls right to the end of the first half of the season.
Mirotic had showed signs of breaking out of his seemingly season-long slump in the last two games, only to have this halt his personal progress and eliminate another scoring and frontcourt option. He'd just been named to the NBA's Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend hours before by the league.
Mirotic scored 17 and 15 points, respectively, after going through massive struggles the last three weeks and after going back to the bench, it appeared he could’ve found his footing as a scorer in the second unit.
Thankfully for Mirotic, the acute appendicitis was discovered soon enough and he’ll be able to recover fully, it appears, despite the surprise.
For the Bulls, it strips them of more depth after the season-ending injury to Joakim Noah, and coach Fred Hoiberg will have to do more lineup shuffling, after having to do plenty in the first 42 games as is.
Derrick Rose is listed as probable after missing the second half of Monday’s loss to the Miami Heat, but aside from that, the Bulls are running out of healthy bodies and productive players.
More will be counted on from Doug McDermott and Tony Snell, but nobody’s sure what they can contribute given the sample size of inconsistency, captured by missed open shots all over the floor.
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Hoiberg may have to turn to Cristiano Felicio or Cameron Bairstow, both of whom who’ve had stints in the D-League. Or he may have to play small all around the floor, shifting Jimmy Butler to small forward and giving more playing time to Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore, who should be available after returning back from his injury.
Either way, a hard trip just got harder for the Bulls, as a valuable piece has been lost for the foreseeable future.