ORLANDO, FLA.Well, theres good news and bad news for the M.A.S.H. unit that doubles as the Bulls backcourt.Derrick Rose, coming off a scary fall in Detroit on Wednesday that led to a left elbow bruise, fully participated in Friday-mornings shootaround at the Amway Center and will play in the evenings contest against the Magic.Its fine. You know if it wasnt messed up, I still wouldnt tell you. Its good, said Rose, who wore a protective sleeve and underwent electronic stimulation, as well as old-fashioned ice treatment for the injury. Its coming along.Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added, Hes good. Theyre going to get bumped, theyre going to be bruised. If a guy is hurting, we want him to play. If hes injured, we dont want them to play. Theres a difference between the two, he continued, with a slight smirk on his face.Now for the bad news: Rip Hamilton, the other half of Chicagos starting backcourt, is a game-time decision, due to a nagging groin injury. It was tough because when I went back to Detroit, there was no way that I was going to sit out that game and just adrenaline alone, it was like, Youre good. Theres no way I dont care who would tell me how hurt I was I was playing regardless and it pulled during the game, so I wrapped up during the game and Thursday it was bothering me, said the veteran shooting guard, who missed two consecutive games prior to his return to the Motor City, following the teams shootaround. The groin is crazy. Its one of those things that can be nagging. I thought I was good. I thought I was where I felt as though I was ready to come back, but nobody could keep me off that floor anyway. I dont give a damn. I was going to play.While Thibodeau maintained that Hamilton was a game-time decision, Rose perhaps accidentally revealed that his new teammate would sit out of the contest.Its going to hurt us, especially when you lose a player like that, but were ready for anything, said the leagues reigning MVP. We have other guys on the team that areready to step in and play, but well definitely miss him tonight.Backup point guard C.J. Watson, traveling with the team despite his sprained left elbow, suffered in the Bulls New Years Day home-opening blowout victory over Memphis, said that hes making progress, but still isnt ready to suit up.Said Thibodeau: Hes not ready, but hes coming along.
Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.
Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.
“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”
Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.
Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.
The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.
Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”
When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.
“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”
Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.
“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”
Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.
“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”
Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.
“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”
The mending hasn’t yet begun for the Bulls, but perhaps a good sign in moving forward from the Bobby Portis punch that delivered a concussion and broken facial bones to Nikola Mirotic is that it isn’t being ignored.
Fred Hoiberg is being tight-lipped about where matters stand, but he did at least say Portis returned to practice and apologized to the team Friday afternoon. Hoiberg wouldn’t reveal the contents of Portis’ apology and Portis didn’t address the media, but it’s clear things aren’t business-as-usual at the Advocate Center.
“Bobby was back at practice. It was good to have him back in here,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously, everybody’s looking forward to having Niko back in here, as well, hopefully soon.”
When asked about Portis’ spirit, Hoiberg deflected and preferred to talk about what adjustments the team will have to make in the immediate future, especially with rookie Lauri Markkanen having to go against Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the home opener Saturday night.
“That’s the biggest thing we have to do as far as preparing until we get our guys back, is throwing different lineups out there and hopefully getting better with our execution,” Hoiberg said.
Justin Holiday admitted that things aren’t normal, saying the actual games to start the season won’t serve as a welcome distraction because this isn’t something that can just be treated trivially.
He wouldn’t venture into getting into his teammates’ head, saying “Bobby came into today like Bobby. We’re not quite sure what he’s thinking mentally. We can’t assume that.”
But one thing that can’t be assumed is a sweeping under or pretending.
“I mean I don’t necessarily think this is a situation for us to get past,” Holiday said. “I think it’s a situation that obviously (needs) to be brought to the forefront. It’s a situation that needs to be taken care of for those two to be able to come together and be brothers again. I don’t think we’re trying to get past it.”
Holiday has been a leader during this early time, so his words and definitive tone were noticeable.
“They say sometimes you need time to heal,” Holiday said. “Again, we have to think about both situations in this. One guy is trying to get back healthy. And again, I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish we could just fix this the right way, but that’s not the case.”
It’s complicated all around, with no real precedent.
For Hoiberg, his handling has two faces. Since Portis is able to practice but has to sit out seven more games on a team-mandated suspension, he has to walk the line of incorporating Portis in daily drills and activities but also has to prepare a team that wasn’t prepared for two power forwards being out for an extended period.
That was on display Thursday as Quincy Pondexter likely played that position for the first time in his career, and it’s highly unlikely Paul Zipser practiced there at all with the depth the Bulls had until now.
“We have to get our guys ready to play positions that they haven’t played,” Hoiberg said. “We’re getting them in here early. We’re getting a group in to work on our execution. Quincy not only hasn’t played in two and a half years but I don’t know if he has ever played the 4.
“You just have to do the best with what you have.”