Nikola Mirotic knew something was wrong when, after an additional night in the hospital following his appendectomy last month, he returned home with a fever and considerable pain in his stomach.
So the next day the Bulls forward returned to Rush Medical Center, where doctors discovered a hematoma in his stomach that required a second surgery. Mirotic spent a week in the hospital recovering, saying at Wednesday's practice he had lost 18 pounds since then, and has just now begun rehabilitation with hopes of getting back to the court as soon as possible.
"It was not really (a) good experience. All I had after the first surgery, I went home I get back I had another one, but it's always try to stay positive. You never know the reason why it's good for this to happen, but it's true I missed a lot of my guys and I was watching all the games and it's been hard, especially the beginning of my recovery."
Mirotic has been working in the pool and been doing light activity on a stationary bike and in the weight room. There's still no timetable for his return, as Fred Hoiberg alluded to at practice Tuesday. But Mirotic, who played in 81 games as a rookie last season, said he's confident in his body and said he could resume basketball activity in two to three weeks. He admitted that both sides of his stomach and back are still sore, which doctors told him was normal. Mirotic's doctor also told him it was the first complication with an appendectomy he had seen in his 30 years.
"I don't know when the time, but of course the one thing I know, I'm going do the best job I can to try to get on the floor as soon and help my teammates. We will see," he said. "It's each day see how it's going to progress, but hopefully it's going to be soon."
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Though Mirotic has struggled much of his sophomore season in Chicago, his absence has been noticeable. The Bulls, already down Joakim Noah (shoulder) and later Jimmy Butler (knee), begin their final 30 games of the regular season shorthanded, especially in the frontcourt. Since Mirotic's last game, Jan. 25 against Miami, the Bulls have gone 2-6 with a net rating of -8.6, second worst in the league behind Phoenix (-13.9). Their rebounding has taken a substantial hit, too, as their rebound percentage of 47.5 percent is fifth worst in the league in that span.
But not all the Bulls' injury news was bad. Mike Dunleavy will see an uptick in minutes following the Bulls' week-long All-Star break. Hoiberg said the veteran sharpshooter looked good and made it through the last two days of practice - which included game officials - and likely will get the start on LeBron James tomorrow night in Cleveland; Dunleavy started the Bulls' final two games before the break, in Charlotte and against Atlanta.
The hope is that Dunleavy's increased minutes will help give some stability to a Bulls lineup that has rotated players in and out as injuries have occurred. The Bulls won't get to ease in to the home stretch of their schedule, facing the top two seeds in the East on consecutive nights. The Bulls are looking to break out of a funk that's seen them lose 13 of 18 since they won six straight in early January
"We need to get confident. That's something that we've lacked, especially on the road trip when we couldn't close out games that we had great chances of winning," he said. "So it's giving ourselves an opportunity and closing them out and gaining that confidence that's so important if you want to go on a run in this league.
"The thing about our conference, about the East, if you do go on a run you can make a jump in the hurry. And that's what we've got to be focused on. Past is the past, gotta go out and prepare and hopefully give ourselves a chance to win every game."