Bulls: Nikola Mirotic gets stitches out, 'hopefully on the road to recovery'


Bulls: Nikola Mirotic gets stitches out, 'hopefully on the road to recovery'

Nikola Mirotic had his stitches removed Wednesday, a small step that Fred Hoiberg said puts him "hopefully on the road to recovery now."

Mirotic underwent an emergency appendectomy on Jan. 27 and was expected to be out until after the All-Star break. But complications during the procedure required Mirotic to undergo a hematoma removal, a setback from which the second-year forward still does not have a timetable for his return.

The removal of the stitches should allow Mirotic to stand more upright, and Hoiberg said the next step of the process will be getting him into a hot tub or pool where he can begin his rehabilitation. But Hoiberg also said Wednesday before the Bulls' matchup against the Atlanta Hawks that Mirotic is still "in a lot of pain" and has lost about 15 pounds since the surgery two weeks ago.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The injury came at a tough time for both Mirotic and the Bulls.

The 24-year-old had been mired in a season-long sophomore slump but was showing signs of breaking out, scoring 17 and 15 points in the two games before the surgery. It marked the first time since mid-December he had shot 50 percent or better from the field in back-to-back games. Mirotic's injury also came less than two weeks after Joakim Noah underwent shoulder surgery with a timetable for return at four to six months.

"It’s a tough blow for our team because I thought he was playing good basketball leading into that. The important thing is getting him right, now," Hoiberg said. "Hopefully we’ll get him back. I don’t know exactly a time frame on it, but in the stretch run where he’ll be very important to our team."

[MORE: All-Star nod bittersweet for Pau Gasol replacing Jimmy Butler]

With Noah and Mirotic sidelined - as well as All-Star Jimmy Butler - the Bulls are relying heavily on Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol, who is dealing with soreness in his left hand. Both Gibson and Gasol averaged nearly 34 minutes per game during the Bulls' seven-game road trip, both up from their season averages.

And though the Bulls' shallow and veteran frontcourt will get a break with the upcoming All-Star break - the Bulls will have eight days between games - rookie Bobby Portis could see his name called more frequently as the first big man off the bench. Portis' continued improvement - in five February games he's averaged 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23.3 minutes - will be crucial as the Bulls await for Mirotic's return, which could last longer than initially expected.

"I thought Bobby had some really good moments in the last game (in Charlotte). There was an incident where he and Pau were having a pretty good discussion on the bench about a missed assignment and then I thought he was much better as the game went on," Hoiberg said. "His shows are getting better, he had a really nice rotation the other day. Just different things that you don’t really see much in the college game that Bobby’s getting better at. And that’s a great sign. He’s still out there playing hard, playing his tail off."

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

The NBA preseason has finished and teams are finalizing their rosters before the beginning of the regular season.

For the Bulls, that meant claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers and signing him to a two-way contract.

The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported the move.

Ulis, a product of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, was waived by the Warriors on Friday. He spent two years at Kentucky before getting drafted in the second round by the Phoenix Suns in 2016.

In two years with the Suns, Ulis made 58 starts and played in 132 games. He averaged just over 7 points per game in both seasons. Last season, Ulis also averaged 4.4 assists per game against 1.8 turnovers in 23.4 minutes per game.

The Suns waived Ulis after the season and the Warriors signed him for the preseason. He averaged 3 points and 1.5 assists per game in four preseason games with the Warriors.

The two-way contract means Ulis could be spending more time with the Windy City Bulls than at the United Center on game days, but backup point guard is a question mark for the Bulls. Cam Payne looks like he will get first crack at the role behind Kris Dunn with Denzel Valentine injured. Ryan Arcidiacono just made the team and could also figure into point guard minutes.

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Cuts during the NBA preseason aren’t exactly as gut-wrenching and tension-filled as they are in the NFL. NBA teams cut from somewhere in the late teens down to 15, and the potential for two-way contracts exist for those players who don’t make the roster. But for Ryan Arcidiacono, Saturday was filled with angst as he waited for a call. It never came.

“I was thinking about it. It’s like Hard Knocks when you’re watching. You don’t want to get that phone call,” Arcidiacono said Sunday before practice. “I was just thinking to myself after the game (Friday), nobody said anything to me. I was talking to (assistant) Pete (Myers) and he said, ‘Just get outta here, man. I’ll see you at practice on Sunday.’ I was still a little nervous on Friday night. Saturday morning I felt better after I talked to my agent and everything became more official.”

It’s quite the journey for Arcidiacono, who spent time both with the Bulls and their G-League affiliate in Hoffman Estates last season. In 37 starts with the Windy City Bulls, Arcidiacono averaged 13.9 points and 8.5 assists in 39.6 minutes. His two longest stints in Chicago came in late January and at the end of the year, and that 24-game audition was enough for the Bulls to re-sign him in July.

Arcidiacono found more comfort this summer in Year 2 with the Bulls. Though his playing time in the preseason was limited he showed enough in camp to warrant a spot on the roster. It also helped that the Bulls find themselves thin at the point guard position behind Kris Dunn, with Cameron Payne struggling and Denzel Valentine on the mend with an ankle injury.

“I think last year really helped me with the two-way, getting acclimated with what Fred wants to do,” he said. “I think getting up and down with the G League. (Head coach) Charlie (Henry) really helped me a lot. Knowing our point guard situation, I just tried to be the hardest playing guy on the floor anytime I step on and the rest will take care of itself.”

It’s unknown whether Arcidiacono’s stint in Chicago will last. His contract will be guaranteed on January 10. He’s an important body for now with Lauri Markkanen out for the foreseeable future and Valentine still recovering from his own injury. But he’ll also have the opportunity to push Payne for that back-up role. Payne struggled much of the preseason, averaging 4.2 points and 3.2 assists on just 25 percent shooting.

“Arci has done a lot of really good things,” Hoiberg said. “I liked the way he looked in the game the other night off the ball. Defensively, made some really good solid plays and again, when there’s an open man on the court Arci’s gonna find him.”

He won’t move the needle on the Bulls’ season, and his minutes will likely be minimal once the season begins. But for now it’s a great story of persistence that gives the Bulls another hard-working body in practice.”

“Whatever our team needs, that’s what they’ll get from me,” he said. “Whether that’s being a backup or the third point guard spot, I’m just here to compete and make our team better and hopefully get us some victories.”