Freb Hoiberg

Nikola Mirotic pulled from practice, left Bulls facility before hesitating to agree to Pelicans trade

Nikola Mirotic pulled from practice, left Bulls facility before hesitating to agree to Pelicans trade

The Bulls and Pelicans had a deal involving Nikola Mirotic early Tuesday afternoon, both sides being so sure of things Mirotic was pulled off the practice floor.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg talked to Mirotic, and Mirotic left the Advocate Center believing his time with the Bulls was over. 

But before the deal sending Mirotic to New Orleans and bringing Omer Asik and a first-round pick to the Bulls could be finalized, Mirotic hesitated, according to multiple sources. 

And that's where he stands now, in a moment of pause as he contemplates waiving his no-trade clause for a fresh start. 

It's certainly complicated and to large measure, out of the Bulls' hands. Mirotic wants to ensure he pockets his $12.5 million for next season, but the small-market Pelicans have big money committed to franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis, guard Jrue Holiday and want to retain DeMarcus Cousins for the foreseeable future. 

Mirotic is with the Bulls in Portland as they begin their three-game west swing and understandably, doesn't want to forfeit his Bird Rights in a deal that won't have his team option picked up--at least by the appearance of things. 

The Bulls have been searching for a suitor for Mirotic after having talks with the Utah Jazz, Mirotic's preferred destination. The Bulls are enamored with Jazz swingman Rodney Hood but the Jazz aren't willing to part with Hood, and the Bulls are sticking firm to at least receiving a cost-controlled first round pick in this sunmer's star-studded draft. 

Then with Cousins' Achilles injury last week, a need opened for the Pelicans and oppprtunity appeared for the Bulls. 

The Bulls thought they had a deal that crossed off several requirements--notably Asik's $3 million buyout after the 2018-19 season, and now one wonders what kind of awkward existence there will be in the meantime between the two parties.

After all, Mirotic made it known he wanted to be a starter and no longer wishes to be in Chicago, especially after his incident with Bobby Portis before the start of the regular season. 

The Bulls and Mirotic have navigated that turbulence, with Mirotic playing the best basketball of his career and the Bulls wanting to grant his wishes. 

Bulls executive Vice President John Paxson has been clear since taking more of the reins, that any Bull that doesn't want to be a Bull will be accommodated. 

But Mirotic put another snag in that plan with his hesitation over his future, considering there's so many unknowns with the Pelicans and their cap situation. 

And now, the Bulls and Pelicans are waiting on Mirotic's answer--as the clock is rapidly ticking on this uneasy relationship.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Ugliest game of the year in loss to Spurs


Bulls Talk Podcast: Ugliest game of the year in loss to Spurs

On the latest Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, and Vincent Goodwill react to the Bulls loss to San Antonio and the ankle injury to Lauri Markkanen. The group will also discuss Paul Zipser’s role in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, and the potential for lineup changes vs the Thunder. Plus a lightning round Q+A with early season MVP, are the Pistons are for real?, and Kendall’s candid answer on the future of Illini basketball.

Improving Cristiano Felicio glad to continue developing with Bulls

Improving Cristiano Felicio glad to continue developing with Bulls

Cristiano Felicio first earned minutes two seasons ago as an unheralded big man with a soft voice, quick feet and soft hands that spoke volumes more than a low-toned voice.

Now he carries the same low-toned voice and is still low-key but has become enough of a commodity for the Bulls to reward him with a four-year contract worth $32 million, a deal reached in the opening hours of free agency.

As painful as this new direction the Bulls are traveling in expects to be, a decision on bringing back Felicio was as much a no-brainer for the Bulls as Felicio’s answer to what he’ll do with a pay increase that rises to $8 million annually from roughly $875,000 last season.

“I'm planning on getting my mom a house, and after that I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the money,” Felicio said on a conference call with media Thursday afternoon.

“It feels great. Since I got here, I thought the Bulls had a great organization and they've worked with me since Day 1 and they wanted me to continue to be here and working and putting the Bulls jersey on. So for me it was great to sign with them again because I'm very happy here and I'm glad that I'm coming back.”

Assuming the Bulls don’t unload starting center Robin Lopez, Felicio will continue his progression as a dependable rebounder and finisher around the rim, as he averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes. With the raw numbers, Felicio averaged nearly 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes as a roller to the rim on pick and rolls.

Now he says he hopes to improve on his midrange game as the Bulls hope to employ Fred Hoiberg’s wide-open system next season. Wins and losses won’t matter as much as player development and with Felicio turning 25 on Friday, he believes he’ll progress as quickly in the seasons to come as he has in the first two years in Chicago.

“For sure I was surprised. Because like I said when I got here, nobody knew me,” Felicio said. “And for the first six, seven months I was just working, staying on the court trying to improve my game. So to be able to end the first season the way I did, for sure, was eye-opening to me for what I could do in the future.”

He had his best games of the year when the 2015-16 season wound down and the road was cleared with Joakim Noah out with injury and Pau Gasol headed for free agency.

Considering he came from Pouso Alegre, Brazil, not exactly a basketball hotbed for NBA prospects, the positive reinforcement was necessary.

“Everyone who's been with me since the beginning knows how hard I worked, how many "nos" I got in the beginning of my career, how hard it was for me to get to this point,” Felicio said. “Even when people doubted me, I tried not to listen to it and just keep working, keep improving.

“Now I've been here for a year or two, and to get this contract now is a blessing because I have been working since I was like 13. I've had really bad moments and moments when I thought I wasn't going to be able to go anywhere in the back of my head. My mom helped me throughout everything. My family was with me. And to be here now, coming from a city where sports is not even a big thing, it's unreal.”

Now he’s one of Hoiberg’s dependables, as the Bulls will have only a few holdovers from last season and still are engaged in contract negotiations with Nikola Mirotic, a fellow restricted free agent with whom Felicio shares an agent.

“Yeah, for sure they're going in a new direction,” Felicio said. “We have a lot of young guys, a lot of guys that are hard workers and I know a few of them from my last two years here. I'm sure it's going in a great direction. Not a lot of people are putting faith in us, but if we keep working, when the season starts I'm sure we'll have pretty good season.”