Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic missed the team’s afternoon walkthrough Friday before their game against the Milwaukee Bucks, telling team officials he forgot about the walkthough.
“I came late for our meeting here, I apologized to the teammates and coaches,” Mirotic said.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Mirotic, who did not play Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, wasn’t excused.
“Niko was in early this morning. He was the first guy in the gym getting in extra work,” Hoiberg said. “I had a good meeting with him. Obviously we don't know the circumstances yet [of missing walkthrough], but I'll talk to him as soon as I'm done with this (media) session here.”
Being that it was the first “DNP- Coach’s Decision” of Mirotic’s career, and followed by him missing the walkthrough, the question of it being an act of defiance is natural.
Mirotic said the initial benching was surprising, the first bold move Hoiberg has made this season.
“No, I’m not that kind of guy,” Mirotic said after the Bulls’ 95-69 loss to the Bucks, as he was the only healthy Bull who didn’t play. “Even if things are not how I’d like them to be, I’m a professional. It’s not my first year here. Those guys respect me, I respect them, I wouldn’t do anything like that. I just forgot. Just (stuff) happens.”
Mirotic has been known as a team guy even through his struggles, so one can write off the incident as bad timing after what was sure to be a frustrating night.
Mirotic was replaced by Bobby Portis in the rotation in Thursday’s loss to the Bucks, and only scored in double figures one time in seven December games.
On the heels of shooting 34 percent this month and 22 percent from 3, the optics of a struggling player missing a team workout certainly makes it look worse.
“It’s been difficult,” Mirotic said. “First time in my career this is happening but it’s the coach’s decision and I gotta respect that. There’s not too much I can say about that.”
Hoiberg said it was a fineable offense, and after the two talked Friday morning at the Advocate Center, Hoiberg felt Mirotic was in a good place — relatively.
“He was as good as he can be in a situation like that,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously, any competitor isn't going to be happy when you get taken out of a lineup. But talking to him about keeping himself ready ... It was good to see him in there this morning getting in extra work and getting up extra shots, keeping himself prepared when his name was called, and that's what we talked about.
“Obviously he's going to get another chance this year. He's got to keep working, keep himself ready, and when opportunity comes, go out and play well.”