Bulls

John Paxson: No easy solution to Nikola Mirotic-Bobby Portis situation

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AP

John Paxson: No easy solution to Nikola Mirotic-Bobby Portis situation

Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson addressed the media Friday at the team’s practice, in light of the new developments surrounding Nikola Mirotic’s trade request.

Still recovering from the effects of a concussion and broken facial bones at the hands of teammate Bobby Portis, there appears to be a disconnect between Mirotic and the team — hence the trade request that Paxson would neither confirm nor deny.

But the mere fact Paxson came over to speak to the media confirms things are reaching critical mass and he admits there are no easy answers.

“We’re really sensitive to this entire issue and what Niko is going through physically and mentally,” Paxson said. “We’re trying to be sensitive to him. We don’t have all the answers today. But just like in anything, as an organization we have to do what’s in our best interests. That’s the bottom line. And so we will.”

Mirotic has a no-trade clause but is willing to waive it in order to leave Chicago — or more directly the specter of having to be in the same locker room as Portis. With the situation being so public, it’s hard to see the Bulls rushing to make a deal involving either player, even with the rise of rookie Lauri Markkanen lessening the necessity for both.

It’s harder to see a team offering an asset to the Bulls’ liking and opposing teams are doing background work on Portis to see what he’s like in the locker room, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com.

Although the Bulls would like this to be wrapped up in a neat bow, there’s no smooth transition and any solution will be messy.

“We have to operate ... today is the day we’re going to try to move this forward a little bit,” Paxson said. “Niko has the opportunity to do some light physical work. We need to have him do that under our supervision. We’re going to go day to day with it.”

Portis is practicing through his eight-game suspension while Mirotic will be out an additional four-to-six weeks once he clears concussion protocol.

There’s a thought from Mirotic’s camp the Bulls were too light with Portis but Paxson said there wasn’t any guidelines for a suspension.

“There’s always two sides,” Paxson said. “In doling out the punishment to Bobby, that’s fairly unprecedented too what we did. Like I told you last week, we consulted with the league to make sure we were going about it the right way.

“We’re confident with what we did. I’ve never been in Niko’s position where something like that happens. We are trying to understand it and work with him and his people. But we can’t just do something for the sake of doing it. It has to be in our best interest too.”

Teammates have reached out to Mirotic but aside from Robin Lopez and a couple others including coach Fred Hoiberg, he appears to be distant as a whole. He does communicate with the medical staff but has come to the Advocate Center during off hours as opposed to when the team is in the building.

“The biggest focus that I need to have right now is to worry about getting our guys to continue to grow as a basketball team,” Hoiberg said. “The players are doing a really good job of focusing on the task at hand, and they’re doing everything we’ve been asking them to do.”

With this being such a young team dealing with drama the franchise should be more proactive as opposed to letting things settle itself.

“I don’t have that answer right now. I really don’t,” Paxson said. “Your hope is that as time goes on, there can be some communication where it gets resolved. But this is a unique situation. It really is.”

When Paxson was asked if the Bulls should facilitate communication and get Mirotic and Portis in a room, he said, “we’re not there yet”.

“But we’re supportive of Niko and what he’s going through,” Paxson said. “We support Bobby too. He’s a part of our team. You sit here in my position, Gar’s position, ownership’s position and you see it’s a distraction. But we also have to keep these young guys focused on what they’re doing.”

What makes matters more complicated is Mirotic isn’t even eligible to be traded until mid-January so even if he is to be moved it can’t happen for at least two and a half months.

Hence, Paxson admitting there aren’t any easy answers.

“We have to be patient. It’s not something that’s going to be resolved overnight,” Paxson said. “We’re going to continue to communicate with Niko and his representatives and find our way through this. It’s very important for us to do what’s in our best interest.”

Paxson reiterated the franchise is sensitive to Mirotic’s circumstance, being punched by a teammate and the damage it caused, while adding Mirotic has been cleared for light supervised activity such as bike riding.

Paxson said he hopes to see Mirotic around soon but added, “We’re trying to be sensitive to his feelings and what he has expressed to us.”

And Mirotic has made it known the status quo will not do, as Paxson said they won’t force Mirotic one way or another, even as Mirotic is trying to force movement of some kind.

“I think we’re going to follow his lead right now,” Paxson said.

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

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USA TODAY

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

Just two years after being drafted in the second round, Paul Zipser told German media that he doesn’t see the Bulls wanting him next season.

The Bulls have until mid-July to pick up Zipser's option.

"I would not be surprised if they no longer want me.” Zipser said in German and translated via Google Translate

“Actually, I'm pretty sure I will not play in Chicago soon.”

Last month, Zipser had surgery on his fractured left foot, in his native country of Germany, which grew speculation the Bulls wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season. Zipser said the surgery "went perfectly."

Zipser showed some flashes of potential in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 per game and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games. But this past season, he played more games, but injuries derailed him from improving his overall production. He finished with four points and 2.4 rebounds in 54 games, including 12 starts.

Zipser explained that things changed from his first year to his second year.

“They were very varied," Zipser said. "The first year was just going very well. I fought my way into the team from the beginning and showed how I can help the team. The Bulls just needed someone like me. That's why it worked so well. We benefited from each other - that's why we were successful.”

“That was very different. It was not right from the beginning, and I was already struggling with my injury. It was not quite clear what it is. If you have pain in your foot, you automatically go down a bit with intensity. You just do not want to hurt yourself and be completely out. It was then difficult for me to keep my head in the sport - I did not manage that well. Nevertheless, the injury should not be an excuse.”

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Zipser might not dress up in a Bulls uniform next year.

Former Bulls guard opens up about having depression

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AP

Former Bulls guard opens up about having depression

During his NBA career, he was known as having a joking, outgoing, clown-type of personality. Now, former NBA point guard Nate Robinson opened up about having depression.

Robinson, an 11-year NBA veteran, told Bleacher Report that he began going to therapy sessions in the 2012-13 season when he played for the Bulls.

He said he would struggle with having an angel and a demon inside of him.

"The NBA gave me my depression," Robinson told Bleacher Report. "I've never been a depressed person in my life."

"The hardest thing in my whole life, of my 34 years in existence on earth, was dealing with 11 years in the NBA of trying to be somebody that [NBA coaches] want me to be," Robinson said.

When Robinson was with the Bulls, he said he would sit in front of the plane so he wouldn’t be tempted to crack jokes. His one year with the Bulls ended up being one of the top seasons statistically in his career. He averaged just over 13 points and four assists per game. He played in all 82 games (starting 23) on a team that finished 45-37 with a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

He thought his behavior was always looked down upon, and Robinson thought he was being punished for his actions.

“It’s like Spider-Man, that Venom. I never wanted that Venom outfit to just consume me,” he says. “I wanted to be Spider-Man. I wanted to be positive. I never wanted that dark side to come out because I know what that dark side could do.” 

This might come as a surprise for NBA fans, knowing how energetic Robinson was on the court, no matter what team he was a part of.

Even though Robinson is just 5-foot-9, he brought a spark of energy when he came into the game.

He hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2015-16 season with the Pelicans and spent last year with the Delaware 87ers in the G League.

Robinson is known for his participation in the NBA Slam Dunk competition. He won three contests, going back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.

One highlight was Robinson jumping over Dwight Howard in 2009, which ultimately gave Robinson his third title. Another highlight is welcoming former 1986 Slam Dunk Champion Spud Webb on the floor in 2006 and jumping over him.

Robinson is still vying for a comeback to the NBA.