John Paxson

Nikola Mirotic returns to the Advocate Center but not much has changed

Nikola Mirotic returns to the Advocate Center but not much has changed

There was a sight for sore eyes in the Advocate Center during Bulls practice, as Nikola Mirotic was in the building with his teammates for the first time in a long time.

But it appears to be more of a function of the Bulls’ urging than Mirotic coming around on his stance with Bobby Portis, as it’ll be four weeks to the day on Tuesday from being punched by Portis at practice on Oct. 17.

The original timeline from his concussion and broken facial bones injury was four-to-six weeks.

Mirotic was in the training room and lifting weights while his teammates were starting their usual practice routine. Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said they’re trying to integrate Mirotic back into the fold, but Mirotic’s stance about wanting to be traded or wanting Portis to be traded hasn’t changed.

“Niko is in the building and has started to come around a little more,” Paxson said. “We’re still in the process of trying to work through everything. As I said last week, he’s still under contract. Both him and Bobby are.”

Paxson almost admitted Mirotic’s request hasn’t been altered, and that the Bulls aren’t in a position to accommodate Mirotic just because.

“Like I said last week, I’m not going to really talk about anything that’s been asked of us,” Paxson said. “The reality is that you just can’t move a guy for the sake of moving him. We’re going to have to do what’s in our best interests first and foremost. That’s how we’re going about it day-to-day. Both Niko and Bobby are on our roster right now. And Niko’s getting cleared to do more and more. This obviously is coming to a position where it’s going to have to be resolved between the two.”

Mirotic has been in the Advocate Center over the past couple weeks, but it hasn’t been with teammates in the building. He’s done light activities with supervision from some staff members during off-hours, but it appears the Bulls want him around during their business hours.

Even if the Bulls were to trade Mirotic, it couldn’t be until January 15 at the earliest and Mirotic would ideally have to be in some form of basketball shape for his next team.

So from his standpoint, doing the treadmill work, weightlifting and light shooting is probably a priority anyways.

It doesn’t make the situation any less difficult to navigate, however.

“I think what has to be understood is that we weren’t going to be in a position to continuously accommodate those needs,” Paxson said. “When he started to get healthy, because he’s on our roster, it’s incumbent on him to be around when the team’s around. That’s just a part of it. I look at it this way: We want him to start coming around more. And it is on him to do that.”

And it opens the door for Portis and Mirotic to cross paths in the Advocate Center, although Paxson admitted there’s no plan to get the two teammates in the same space to reconcile anything.

Portis said it isn’t awkward to see Mirotic back in the building considering all that’s transpired and that if Mirotic approached him he would be okay with it.

“I'd react normal. I'm a normal guy. I'm a guy that's a high character guy, low maintenance guy. I'd welcome him in with open arms,” Portis said. “Always good to have him in the same building. Gotta try to get things back to normal.”

Mirotic hasn’t answered texts from Portis or voice mails in the meantime.

“That’s the thing we’ve been really trying to get to,” Paxson said. “But you can understand the difficulty of that. But we’ve had discussions with him and representatives. But it’s something we’re still trying to work through. We don’t have an answer for that yet.”

Paxson views this situation as one he hopes will have a resolution between the two parties, even though the complications stretch long and far.

“They are adults. This is our workplace,” Paxson said. “They’re both part of the team. I think it’s pretty simple.”

Michael Reinsdorf pleased with first phase of Bulls' rebuilding process

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AP

Michael Reinsdorf pleased with first phase of Bulls' rebuilding process

Bulls COO and team president Michael Reinsdorf is rarely one to make public statements, but Friday afternoon he stated he’s pleased with the state of the Bulls rebuild to date.

With a 2-8 record following Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Bulls own the third-worst mark in the NBA behind Atlanta and Dallas—which some would argue is right where the franchise wants itself to be.

Reinsdorf spoke at the United Center earlier in the afternoon, part of the NBA’s announcement that Chicago would be hosting NBA All-Star Weekend in 2020.

“The rebuild so far, I’m not normally the spokesperson on basketball stuff like that,” he cautioned. “We’re only a few weeks in. Lauri’s (Markkanen) playing really well. So far we’re happy. When Zach (LaVine) comes back, that’s going to be a big indication. Kris (Dunn) just came back from an injury.”

Of course, Markkanen and LaVine were the big pieces from the draft-night trade of Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves that jump-started this process. LaVine is a couple weeks away from practicing with contact after his ACL surgery last February.

Dunn is attempting to find his way after a preseason injury cost him two weeks of playing time and development.

Markkanen, especially in the aftermath of the Nikola Mirotic-Bobby Portis altercation last month, has stepped forward and established himself as one of the NBA’s top rookies.

“We have to see, but right now, we’re happy. The team is playing really hard. Fred’s got them playing really hard,” Reinsdorf said.

It was a public endorsement of sorts of Hoiberg, who’s had to endure questions seemingly every week since being named head coach two years ago, and then had to deal with the Portis-Mirotic mess.

The Bulls have only been blown out of one game this season, a home date against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and one would think Reinsdorf is pleased with at least the effort the team is putting out.

“It’s not going unnoticed,” Reinsdorf said. “There’s certain sports writers in this city that have written actually positive articles about the way the team is playing right now. I can look to the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times, hopefully the fans will start to take notice.”

Hoiberg said he keeps in regular contact with Reinsdorf but seemed to take the compliment in stride.

“The one thing our staff is focused on is playing better,” he said.

Reinsdorf pointed to the rebuilds of other franchises in town in the hopes fans will be more accepting of what the Bulls are embarking on.

“Because we know this isn’t necessarily about wins and losses this year, but we do want to make sure the team and the players are trying their hardest to win games and giving their best effort,” Reinsdorf said. “Because that’s kind of the mentality the city of Chicago has and the fans – work hard and let’s see what happens. As far as the rebuild, the Cubs did a great job with their rebuild, the White Sox are in the midst of their rebuild, and I think the fans understand that’s kind of the nature of sports.”

David Nwaba is having a block party and the whole NBA is invited

David Nwaba is having a block party and the whole NBA is invited

David Nwaba probably isn't the Bulls' longterm option at guard, but he's certainly making the most of his starting opportunity. 

Signed this offseason in a move framed as Gar Forman and John Paxson taking a low-risk flyer on an athletic defender, the 24-year-old Cal Poly alumnus has impacted games with his high energy and all-around floor game. 

Case and point: Friday's feel-good, 105-83 road win over a surprisingly solid Orlando Magic squad, where Nwaba finished with 16 points, five boards, two steals while posting a game-high plus-21. 

Maybe the most eye-opening moment of the Bulls' second victory of the season, though, was the block party invitation Nwaba hand-delivered to Magic forward Wesley Iwundu:

It caps a solid road trip for the second-year pro, who's played in only 27 career NBA games. In the Bulls' loss to Miami on Wednesday -- Nwaba's first start of the season -- he snagged 11 rebounds and rejected two shots. 

And while there are clear limitations to Nwaba's offensive game (see: outside shooting), his high motor, pressure defense and, you guessed it, ridiculous blocks have been welcoming sights for a team with a penchant to miss assignments and allow the more-than-occasional blow by. 

"I don’t expect you to know who I am," Nwaba wrote in a Player's Tribune essay just after being claimed by the Bulls. "I’m just thankful to have the chance to tell you."

It looks like he's done telling us now, opting instead to just show us: 

Nwaba will lose minutes to Zach LaVine once the Bulls' top talent recovers from ACL injury, but as of now, he's played himself into a future rotation.