Bulls return to practice with Nikola Mirotic still 'several weeks away'


Bulls return to practice with Nikola Mirotic still 'several weeks away'

Nikola Mirotic is still a ways away from returning to any kind of basketball activity, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg revealed after the team’s first practice from the All-Star break.

Mirotic underwent an appendectomy in late January and subsequently a hematoma removal several days later, as his return went from “days away” to “weeks away.” Having lost 15 pounds after the hematoma removal, he’s gradually gaining it back but hasn’t been evaluated for any return to basketball activities yet.

“Yeah, he’s gained some of his weight back,” Hoiberg said. “He’s still down 10 or 11 pounds. He has not been cleared to get out on the floor and do any type of running.”

Mirotic has been out of action since Jan. 25, an 89-84 loss to the Miami Heat and even when he was there, had been battling consistency issues much like the team as a whole.

“He’s been in the weight room gradually doing some things,” Hoiberg said. “ He still has pain in his abdomen. It will start in the pool, but it’s still several weeks away.’’

When asked if Mirotic would miss the whole season given Hoiberg’s ominously vague timeline, Hoiberg said, “I don’t think so. No, no. (It’s) kind of general right now. A lot will be determined on how quickly that pain goes away, but he’s still very tender down there.”

[SPORTSTALK LIVE: Can the banged-up Bulls turn their season around?]

In the category of relief, Taj Gibson returned to practice after leaving the last game with a left foot strain and will play Thursday in Cleveland, but that seems to be where the positivity ends given the evidence at hand.

The Bulls’ season has 30 games remaining and the team sits just two games above .500, in the seventh spot in the East. Figuring out the inconsistency was the chief concern for Hoiberg and everybody as his players departed for the break.

“We know we’re in a tough stretch right now,” Derrick Rose said. “We still have 30 games to play. We still believe in each other. It’s just that we just didn’t catch that rhythm yet. Things can change.”

With Mirotic out, along with Jimmy Butler being scheduled to be out for 3-to-4 weeks with his left knee injury, more could be placed on Rose to help carry the team—or keep them afloat.

“When I come out, just try to be as aggressive as I can,” Rose said. “Try to run, speed up the game a little bit and have the trust in my teammates to follow behind me. I’m just going to play my game. When I’m out there, try not to think about that. Read the game a little, try to play smart and give my all to win the game.”

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack. 

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls


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.