Bulls: Mirotic becomes a question mark for Game 3 in Milwaukee


Bulls: Mirotic becomes a question mark for Game 3 in Milwaukee

If Game 3 was Tuesday, the strained left knee Nikola Mirotic suffered late in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks would keep him sidelined, and it appears the Bulls are likely taking the cautious approach with their valuable reserve.

Mirotic was walking very gingerly through the Advocate Center with a wrap around his left knee after the Bulls’ film session, and coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t ready to make any kind of declarations when speaking to the media.

[RELATED - Bulls go up 2-0 on Bucks thanks to big game from Jimmy Butler]

The Bulls emerged with a 2-0 series lead but a couple unexpected bumps and bruises.

“We'll see. It's going to be a few days,” Thibodeau said.  “We want to see how he responds to treatment and then we'll go from there.”

With Game 3 on Thursday, it gives the Bulls a couple extra days to evaluate Mirotic, who sustained the injury when diving on the floor for a loose ball and actually wound up in a mini-altercation with Bucks center Zaza Pachulia, resulting in double technical and a Pachulia ejection.

But it wouldn’t be a safe bet to assume Mirotic will play in Milwaukee Thursday, and he hasn’t had his usual effect in his first two playoff games, totaling 13 points in 39 minutes on 35 percent shooting, as the length of the Bucks’ big men has given him problems — and the Bulls have relied more on Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler for scoring (the two account for 48.4 percent of the Bulls’ scoring through two games).

Mirotic underwent electric stimulation on the knee, and presumably was checked for a concussion after a collision during the same play. Thibodeau indicated Mirotic went through the league-mandated checkpoints and was cleared.

“I don't want to put a timetable on it,” Thibodeau said. “We don't know. It's a strain so you don't know how it'll respond. Just get treatment. He'll be in there two, three times a day. We'll just see how it feels.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The altercation with Mirotic was the third one of the game, as both teams were unusually chippy throughout.

Bucks big man John Henson ran over Bulls guard Aaron Brooks running downcourt in the first quarter, which started the festivities and it carried on for the rest of the game.

Nobody would say the game was dirty, although you could get a sense from the Bulls players that the Bucks toed a little closer to that line than the Bulls would’ve liked. Pachulia was hit with a technical earlier in the second half when an elbow caught Mirotic in the top of the head while jostling for position on a rebound.

It wasn’t a surprise after Bucks coach Jason Kidd wanted his team to be more physical after their Game 1 loss.

[MORE - Bucks get physical in an attempt to swing series with Bulls]

“It’s a tough game to officiate,” Thibodeau said. “We have the best officials in the world. I can say that based on the international experience I have now. It’s not easy to officiate. For the most part, oftentimes you replay plays four and five times and you’re still not sure. These guys have to do it on the spot. They’ve done a good job. Playoffs are physical. A lot of it is judgment. We’ll see.”

Mirotic’s teammates were surprised at him being able to handle the increased physicality of the series, as it’ll only ramp up as the familiarity and thus the contempt, increases.

“It was rough. But actually, it’s more physical overseas a little bit,” said Rose of Mirotic. “I think that he’s used to it. It probably just took him by surprise that he (Pachulia) did it so blatant. He’ll be all right.”

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

It’s felt pre-ordained for months now. Now, it appears it’s decided.

No, the Bulls didn’t draw the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (yet). But The Athletic’s Shams Charania did report Monday afternoon that the lottery scheduled for Aug. 20 will take place virtually. All 14 teams ‘in attendance’ will be allowed to ‘send’ remote representatives. The event will presumably be televised, but details haven’t emerged on that front yet.

It’s a logical gameplan given the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing nature, and the acclaim received by virtual draft showcases broadcast by the WNBA and NFL while live sports in the United States were effectively paused.

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The news also sends a few ripples in Bulls world. For one, who will rep the team, in this, its third consecutive lottery appearance? Michael Reinsdorf and Horace Grant manned the post in 2018 and 2019, respectively. But for this year? Benny the Bull would be sure to bring the energy. On the heels of the summer of “The Last Dance,” perhaps a dynasty-era contributor could get the call. Or maybe a newly-minted front office face instead? Time will tell.

And, as our K.C. Johnson pointed out on Twitter, this development also marks the end of a two-year streak of Chicago hosting the lottery in 2018 and 2019. The city has long housed the combine.

Here’s what Adam Silver told NBC Sports Chicago in February when asked his impressions of Chicago as a host-city for the lottery:

We have been very pleased in Chicago. Our community comes together in Chicago for our predraft camp and combine. It made perfect sense to also conduct the draft lottery there. And that was something that Mayor Emanuel never stopped reminding me of. Things can potentially change over time. We are enjoying being in Chicago. Because of the geographic location, it’s more convenient for our teams to be in a more central location. And Chicago, for the same reasons that makes it a fantastic All-Star host, has all the accommodations you need for our teams when they come together for our combine. My anticipation is we’ll be in Chicago for a while. And the city has been terrific to work with.

Silver made that comment before All-Star weekend in Chicago, but all of the above virtues translated. Though Bulls representation was limited, no one would deny Chicago played a splendid host for the festivities.

The Bulls enter this year’s lottery locked into the seventh-best odds (7.5%) at nabbing the No. 1 pick, and a 32% chance of vaulting into the top four. 

Slots No. 1 through No. 8 in the lottery standings are set with the teams excluded from the NBA’s restart. Slots No. 9 through 14 will populate at the end of the play-in round, when postseason seeding is officially set. Teams that started the restart as a top-eight seed in either conference can fall into the lottery if they miss the playoffs, but the ultimate order of the lottery odds will be decided by pre-hiatus record (meaning, for example, that if the current standings hold and the Phoenix Suns finish with a better record than the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, but miss the postseason, the Suns would own better lottery odds than the Pels and Kings by virtues of each team’s pre-hiatus record).

All of which is to say, clear your calendars for next Thursday. After that, rumor and speculation are sure to swirl until the draft itself, which, as of right now, is reportedly scheduled for Oct. 16. The status of the combine remains up in the air, though ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported July 23 that the league is polling teams on which players should be invited to the combine if one takes place.

For the Bulls, helmed by a new front office regime and facing a moment of reckoning in the current rebuild, this year’s draft process is an especially crucial one.


Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

NBC Sports Chicago is counting down the top 10 Bulls at each position in franchise history.

We've hit the point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. And last, but certainly not least, the men in the middle. The centers.

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Defensive anchors, multi-skilled hubs and blue-collar tenacity abound in these rankings. And plenty of hardware — both of the championship and individual variety.

We hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Without further adieu...

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history