Bulls

Nikola Mirotic day after trade craziness: 'We don't have to rush to make a decision'

Nikola Mirotic day after trade craziness: 'We don't have to rush to make a decision'

PORTLAND, Ore. — There he was, Nikola Mirotic going through morning shootaround with his teammates at Portland’s Moda Center as if there wasn’t a storm of confusion swirling around.

Mirotic planned to play against the Trail Blazers unless something more develops, but from the Bulls’ standpoint, they’ve done their part in accommodating Mirotic. Which is why it wasn't a surprise when the Bulls and Mirotic decided to make Mirotic inactive until they can find a trade partner — with the Feb. 8 deadline fast approaching.

There’s no point in risking an injury or anything catastrophic happening, so at least that seems to be one thing the Bulls and Mirotic agreed upon, before getting to the complicated part of this situation. He didn't attend the game, staying back at the team hotel.

After admitting he got pulled off the floor before Tuesday’s practice in anticipation of a trade, he wouldn’t admit what made him hit the pause button on a move that could send him to New Orleans and end this weird saga of a season.

“It was an option with New Orleans,” Mirotic said. “That’s all I heard. I said, ‘OK, you guys can think and see what’s the best for me.’ We’re going to make a decision, but we don’t have to rush to make a decision. This happened yesterday. It’s not even 24 hours. It’s nothing to do that fast.”

But when he stepped off the floor, his first thought was: “‘It’s happening. It’s happening. It could happen.’”

A year that started with getting punched by Bobby Portis two days before the season opener, followed by a trade demand and unexpected resurgence had finally reached the one-yard line. But getting it into the end zone has proved to be a difficult proposition.

“That’s the only thing that popped into my head. I said, ‘OK, be calm. Wait. Do what they told you to do. Step off the court.’ I was doing some calls to my agent and my family. That’s all. The thing I want is the best for me and my future in the NBA. And I’m sure the Bulls are doing what’s the best for them too.”

It didn’t because he’s not ready — yet. It doesn’t sound like he’s said "no," but more weighing his options. He doesn’t want to forfeit the $12.5 million he’s due to make next season on a team option, as the Pelicans have a king’s ransom tied up in Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and want to keep DeMarcus Cousins this offseason — which could require a $200 million long-term commitment.

There’s no guarantee the Bulls will pick up his option if he stays with the team through the year, either.

Whether it’s believing his agents and the Bulls can find another team that can check all the criteria for all parties or merely himself, he’s not sure — which is why he was drenched in sweat before the team came in for morning shootaround as he got an early workout in with teammates Quincy Pondexter and G-League callup Antonio Blakeney.

“Yeah, we had a conversation,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “After talking to John (Paxson) and Gar (Forman), we determined that the best thing to do was for Niko to not practice and to talk to his representation and go from there. Obviously, Niko's on this trip, and it's my job to try to put our team in a position to compete, in a position to win, and we'll continue to do that. Niko will play tonight, he'll be in the same role coming off the bench.”

Clearly that changed later when Hoiberg talked to the Bulls’ front office, and wouldn’t elaborate too much before the Bulls’ 124-108 loss to the Blazers. There wasn’t much he could say; the parameters are clear.

Mirotic wouldn’t reveal what went through his mind during the time he left the practice facility and when he met the team at the plane before going to Portland.

“Obviously without Cousins, it’s not a good situation for them. I don’t know. I don’t need to think about New Orleans now,” Mirotic said. “Until the last day or minute I’m wearing the Bulls jersey, I’m thinking about the Bulls. It’s something I can not control.”

But he knows his no-trade clause by virtue of his restricted free agency status from last summer means he holds some cards, and maybe even the trump card.

He wants a team to pick up his option for next season and according to sources there’s only one team he doesn’t want to play for. The Pelicans were not that team.

The Bulls would love to get a first-round pick from the Pelicans and will take on the contract of former Bull Omer Asik to do it. Asik has one full year left for $11 million in 2018-19 and has a $3 million buyout for 2019-20.

It seemed to check all the boxes except for on Mirotic’s end — but he wanted to deflect the decision to his agent. He wouldn’t say there was some miscommunication between his wishes and the Bulls considering a deal was reached but not consummated.

“I don't know. I really don't know that,” Mirotic said. “Once again, my representation, you need to talk to them. I don't know what's going on so far. I told them, if there's some news, talk to me, and nobody talked to me this morning. There's nothing there.”

So in the meantime, as he’s done all year, he’ll play and everyone else will sit around and wonder what the next move will be.

“The good thing, I have the option but I'm making it together with my team,” Mirotic said. “They've been fighting for me all this year. We're gonna do what's best for the team, for me. We're not sure yet, what we're gonna do.

“Until then, let's play basketball.”

Except, he won’t.

Bulls' interest in Michael Porter Jr. promises to make draft night an eventful one—again

Bulls' interest in Michael Porter Jr. promises to make draft night an eventful one—again

Draft night has been accompanied by much speculation with the Bulls the last two seasons and Thursday is shaping up to fall right in line with recent history, as many believe the franchise has its eyes set on Missouri swingman Michael Porter, Jr.

According to several league sources the Bulls have inquired about moving up from the seventh spot in the draft to either the third or fourth spot, positions currently occupied by the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively.

Team sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com there’s no truth to the speculation, nor would they entertain the notion of such efforts geared toward selecting Porter Jr., who only played three games this past season at Missouri, sandwiched between back surgery in mid-November.

Things haven’t quite settled with the teams above the Bulls, as most teams have been engaged in some form of trade talk as the draft is a little over 48 hours away. The Bulls were firmly engaged with teams the last two seasons as teams were interested in Jimmy Butler. The Bulls held back on trading him in 2016 before kickstarting their rebuild last June, sending him to Minnesota. 

Depending on who you believe, the Bulls are either engaging in similar conversation to move up for Porter--they were told weeks ago Porter wouldn't last to the seventh spot. But there appears to be a scenario where Porter Jr. could fall to them--a risky but not impossible proposition if Porter Jr. is truly their man. 

Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton appears to be a lock for the Phoenix Suns with the first pick, and Duke big man Marvin Bagley III looks headed for Sacramento, although Bagley isn’t a shoo-in. There’s a segment of the Sacramento front office that’s enamored with Porter Jr, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com, and things could get tricky over the next couple days.

Dallas, selecting fifth, likes Porter Jr. as well but it seems unlikely it’ll pass on Real Madrid star Luka Doncic if he slips past Atlanta and Memphis. If that happens, there’s a path for the Bulls to stand pat and get a player with star potential without having to sacrifice an asset already on the roster or their second first-round pick, which they acquired in the Nikola Mirotic deal this past season.

Oklahoma point guard Trae Young has been in Chicago for a workout, along with the likes of big men Mohamed Bamba from Texas and Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. Villanova’s Mikal Bridges also made a visit and each spoke to media following their workouts.

Porter Jr. has been in Chicago preparing for the draft for the last several weeks. His agent, Mark Bartlestein of Priority Sports, is based in Chicago and has a working relationship with the Bulls.

The Bulls medical staff was the lone NBA team to evaluate Porter Jr. before distributing the results to the other teams, ramping up speculation of a potential marriage between Porter Jr. and the Bulls.

Bulls executive-vice president John Paxson has said the team would look for the best player available as opposed to need, but Porter Jr.—if completely healthy—checks off multiple boxes for the franchise should the speculation have truth behind it.

The Bulls, with everything they obviously did with their lineups to finish the season to not-so-subtly position themselves to take a star, could be tempted to take Porter Jr. if he’s there, even with the question marks.

Before the college season began and his subsequent injury took him out of the conversation, Porter Jr. was mentioned as a top pick in a talent-laden draft. A swingman with a smooth stroke, it was believed he would dominate the college season before taking the next step.

The injury understandably splashed cold water on those prognostications and Porter Jr. has been careful in his rehab, even suffering a minor setback with hip spams right before a second “pro day” was to take place in Chicago last week.

“I saw him in the first workout,” a personnel man for a western conference team said. “He moved good but what he didn’t have was balance. He was dunking but didn’t explode off the floor. The second half, he shot the ball really well. Floaters, off the dribble, spot-ups, he was hitting everything. That’s when I saw what everybody was talking about. His athleticism has to come back and they say it will.”

The workout was important for Porter Jr. to establish fluidity of movement following his back injury as well as reminding those who had only seen him against prep competition or at the Adidas Nations showcase in Houston last August about his skill set.

“He’s a natural scorer,” a general manager in attendance for Porter Jr.’s showing in Houston and Chicago. “He’s not a super athlete, more long than anything. He knows how to score. He’s not KD (Kevin Durant), he’s more like (Boston Celtics forward) Jayson Tatum. Tatum got drafted into the right environment. It’s all about fit.”

Ideally, Porter Jr. could fit next to Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine as a primary scorer, giving the Bulls dynamic, versatile scorers at the toughest positions to gameplan for in the NBA.

Tatum was thrust into the spotlight for the Celtics due to Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury on opening night, and had even more responsibility after Kyrie Irving’s late-season injury, performing admirably as the Celtics advanced to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tatum is one of the finalists for the rookie of the year, which will be announced next Monday. Porter Jr. is three inches taller than Tatum, at 6-foot-11, but he’ll also have to adjust to the physicality of the league relative to his most recent consistent competition.

His back injury is still cause for pause for a few franchises, though, despite the clean bill of health.

“I don’t know if it would deter me from taking him but if anyone says it’s not a factor in your thinking is lying,” the general manager told NBCSportsChicago.com.

The personnel man agrees.

“It does (worry me), a bit,” he said. “But because he’s so big and so freaking talented, I’d consider taking him. If you can go in a situation where it isn’t career threatening, you gotta roll with him. You get a few months to get his strength back, you bring him along slowly to make sure everything’s in working order by the time the season starts.”

That’s a question the Bulls will have to answer if their affection for Porter Jr. is as real as it seems.

“At some point he becomes worth the risk, right? Chicago can’t pass him up, can they?”- the personnel man queried.

That’s the question Chicago has been trying to figure out for weeks now, and the answer will soon be revealed.

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NBA Draft

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NBA Draft

Chicago, IL (June 19, 2018) – With the Chicago Bulls holding TWO first round picks (#7 & #22 overall), NBC Sports Chicago is ready to deliver extensive multi-platform coverage of this Thursday night’s massively-anticipated 2018 NBA Draft highlighted by a special remote edition of “SportsTalk Live” from the Bulls/NBA Draft headquarters at Advocate Center, live draft pick reaction cut-ins during the network’s White Sox & Cubs telecasts, a post-draft recap edition of “In the Loop,” full-blown digital & social media coverage, and much more!  Please note NBC Sports Chicago’s multi-platform 2018 NBA Draft coverage details:

THURSDAY, JUNE 21

  • 5:30 PM -- Special NBA Draft preview edition of “SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado” with host David Kaplan (@thekapman), and featuring NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls/NBA experts Mark Schanowski (@MarkSchanowski), Kendall Gill (@KendallG13), Will Perdue (@Will_Perdue32), and Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill), along with additional Bulls/NBA Draft experts LIVE from the Bulls/NBA Draft headquarters at the Advocate Center. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app) 
  • Between 7:15-8:00 PM (time approx.) -- Live #7 pick reaction cut-ins during NBC Sports Chicago’s Cubs (airing on NBC Sports Chicago) & White Sox (airing on NBC Sports Chicago+) telecasts featuring draft pick reaction/commentary via Schanowski, Gill, Perdue, and Goodwill. (NOTE: Live stream available at NBCSportsChicago.com)
  • 10:30 PM (time approx.) -- “In the Loop presented by GMC” - Featuring Schanowski, Gill, Perdue, and Goodwill, In the Loop will dive into detailed discussion surrounding the Bulls two first round picks, along with showcasing podium moment highlights/interviews featuring the new Bulls rookies from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, an overview of every trade made throughout the evening, plus, post-draft press conference coverage featuring Bulls Executive VP/Basketball Operations John Paxson and General Manager Gar Forman. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app)
  • NBCSportsChicago.com – NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill and digital reporter/producer Mark Strotman (@markstrot) will also provide fans with thorough digital coverage of the Draft from the Advocate Center on Thursday night, which will include a Draft Night overview from Goodwill, along with his write-ups on if the Bulls top pick represents the team’s patience or haste in regards to the rebuilding process, plus a preview piece on “boom or bust” candidates who will likely be available at the #7 slot.  Strotman will be delivering real-time coverage/commentary throughout the night via NBC Sports Chicago’s always-entertaining Bulls Twitter handle @NBCSBulls.  For full NBA Draft content and videos, fans are urged to visit the network’s dedicated Bulls section at NBCSportsChicago.com/Bulls.  

Additional coverage highlights leading up to and throughout Draft Night…

  • SOCIAL MEDIA:
  • Leading up to the Draft, NBC Sports Chicago has created an “On The Clock” feature on both NBCSportsChicago.com and @NBCSBulls on Twitter. “On The Clock” is a breakdown of all the top first-round prospects and features player profile analysis via Schanowski, Goodwill, and NBC Sports college basketball expert Rob Dauster
  • On Thursday night, fans are also urged to check out a special Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) segment (starting the moment the 4th pick is on the clock) featuring reaction/commentary from Schanowski, Gill, and Perdue all the way through the Bulls #7 pick in the Draft (to also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com)…which will be followed by a fan-interactive segment as the trio respond to fan quetions.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago will carry a live Twitter (@NBCSChicago) Periscope look-in to the John Paxson press conference later in the evening.
  • NBA Draft/Advocate Center “Sights & Sounds” moments on Thursday night will be provided via Snapchat (‘NBCSChicago’), along with additional photos/quick video offerings from ‘NBCSChicago’ through Instagram and Instagram Stories
  • PODCASTS: Fans also can look forward to a pair of NBA Draft-specific editions of NBC Sports Chicago’s popular “BullsTalk PODCAST” this week featuring Schanowski, Gill, Strotman, and additional special guests. Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.
     

NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago will announce its multi-platform Chicago Blackhawks/NHL Draft coverage details tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, June 20).