Nikola Mirotic said he accepts Bobby Portis’ apology for the incident that left Mirotic with a concussion and facial fractures, although it doesn’t appear he’s relayed this message to Portis yet.
Being teammates and nothing more looks to be the expectation—in fact, it was the only thing definitively clear from his 14-minute session with the media.
“You know, we are teammates. On the same team,” Mirotic said. “Fighting for the same team and we're both gonna do what we need to do to make it work. Yeah, I accept it (the apology).”
“I will not talk about what happened, but we both, Bobby and me and all the team is doing what we’re supposed to do, being professional. I think so far we’re doing good. We’re in a good way.”
When Mirotic was asked if Portis knows he’s accepted the public apology Portis issued days after the Oct. 17 incident, where Portis punched Mirotic in the face during practice, Mirotic said, “I guess he will know now.”
Mirotic wouldn’t say whether the trade request issued by his representatives to the Bulls still stands or even if it exists at all, saying “That’s something my agent can tell you. I’m happy to be back and everybody is trying to help me feel comfortable.”
Somewhat awkwardly, the Bulls’ power forward tried to put a brave face while addressing the issue and didn’t want to talk about the incident itself saying the Bulls have had enough distractions to this point.
He said head coach Fred Hoiberg and associate head coach Jim Boylen visited him in the aftermath. For awhile, it appeared Mirotic wasn’t having much contact with anybody from the Bulls as he was trying to cope with the situation, along with the fact the Bulls made it known he instigated the situation with Portis.
“Yeah. I feel that support. Fred came to the hospital with Jim Boylen. Gar (Forman) was calling. Everybody was worried about me,” Mirotic said. “So I did feel support and I appreciated that from the front office. Now their goal is to make me get back in the game. I’m working on that.”
Only thing he would confirm was the memory loss that occurred immediately after when he was taken to a nearby hospital.
“I said I didn’t want to talk about it, but I didn’t remember the first day, but after a while yes I did remember after. It’s all gone,” Mirotic said. ‘Like I said, right now the only goal for me is to build my strength and condition and get back with the team.”
Plenty has happened in the time since. Mirotic was supposed to be a starter and offensive focal point for a young team in the early stages of a rebuild, but Lauri Markkanen has emerged and left Mirotic’s standing in question—if he even wants to be around for the immediate future.
“It was very hard. It was the first time being in that situation,” Mirotic said. “Like I said before, I had support from my family and friends. I was trying after the second week to get some exercise and stay in touch with the team. I didn’t want to lose all the contact right away. I was watching all the games from home and trying to help myself when I get back how I can help the team. It was hard. But now I’m here and focused to play.”
When that is, he’s not ready to say but he hopes to be back on the floor—even if Portis is on the floor with him, as the two have been practicing together and not on opposite teams just yet.
“I'm comfortable being on the team,” Mirotic said. “I've had a lot of support from my teammates, from everybody. Right now it's on me to relax and enjoy playing basketball again. To get my strength back, and it's been a long time since I didn't play. I can tell I took the next step yesterday and it was a huge feeling for me, really excited just to be on the bench. Yeah, I'm excited.”