Nikola Mirotic is still a ways away from returning to any kind of basketball activity, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg revealed after the team’s first practice from the All-Star break.
Mirotic underwent an appendectomy in late January and subsequently a hematoma removal several days later, as his return went from “days away” to “weeks away.” Having lost 15 pounds after the hematoma removal, he’s gradually gaining it back but hasn’t been evaluated for any return to basketball activities yet.
“Yeah, he’s gained some of his weight back,” Hoiberg said. “He’s still down 10 or 11 pounds. He has not been cleared to get out on the floor and do any type of running.”
Mirotic has been out of action since Jan. 25, an 89-84 loss to the Miami Heat and even when he was there, had been battling consistency issues much like the team as a whole.
“He’s been in the weight room gradually doing some things,” Hoiberg said. “ He still has pain in his abdomen. It will start in the pool, but it’s still several weeks away.’’
When asked if Mirotic would miss the whole season given Hoiberg’s ominously vague timeline, Hoiberg said, “I don’t think so. No, no. (It’s) kind of general right now. A lot will be determined on how quickly that pain goes away, but he’s still very tender down there.”
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In the category of relief, Taj Gibson returned to practice after leaving the last game with a left foot strain and will play Thursday in Cleveland, but that seems to be where the positivity ends given the evidence at hand.
The Bulls’ season has 30 games remaining and the team sits just two games above .500, in the seventh spot in the East. Figuring out the inconsistency was the chief concern for Hoiberg and everybody as his players departed for the break.
“We know we’re in a tough stretch right now,” Derrick Rose said. “We still have 30 games to play. We still believe in each other. It’s just that we just didn’t catch that rhythm yet. Things can change.”
With Mirotic out, along with Jimmy Butler being scheduled to be out for 3-to-4 weeks with his left knee injury, more could be placed on Rose to help carry the team—or keep them afloat.
“When I come out, just try to be as aggressive as I can,” Rose said. “Try to run, speed up the game a little bit and have the trust in my teammates to follow behind me. I’m just going to play my game. When I’m out there, try not to think about that. Read the game a little, try to play smart and give my all to win the game.”