Adjustments coming Nikola Mirotic’s way, and the rook is ready

SHARE Adjustments coming Nikola Mirotic’s way, and the rook is ready
SHARE Adjustments coming Nikola Mirotic’s way, and the rook is ready

Adjustments are coming Nikola Mirotic’s way.

That’s just the way the Association works for rookies.

Surprisingly, Mirotic isn’t even blinking.

“I’m just trying to play simple basketball,’’ Mirotic said after the Wednesday shootaround. “I don’t want to be thinking in my head that I have pressure. Just play simple basketball, share the ball, try to play good defense, and the last two games have been a big change for me, playing the three position, especially to see if I can play defense at the three position.

“I thought I did a great job, and the most important thing is we won the last two games. That was very important for us.’’

More important for coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls. What they continued to learn about their Spanish League transfer student is that the sky really is the limit. At the start of the year, they didn’t trust him with heavy minutes, but frontcourt injuries changed all that.

Now, they trust him to not only be in the game late, playing the stretch-four position he was brought over to play, but also some small forward the last two games because of the Mike Dunleavy (right ankle) injury.

The result?

He dropped 10 points on Boston, and then followed that up with 17 against Houston, and that all came after he was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December.

“Just who he is,’’ Thibodeau said of his newest weapon off the bench. “He came in with a great attitude, great approach to the game. He’s smart, he’s driven, he’s not afraid. He wants to do well, he wants the team to function well. He’s fit in extremely well. Now that he’s going through the league for a second time, he’s getting a lot more comfortable as well. But he has a good edge about him.

“And playing two positions, particularly when it’s small and big, that’s quite a challenge and he’s handled that part extremely well. It hasn’t really surprised me because of how quickly he’s picked up other things. He’s never satisfied, comes in, he’s the same every day. It’s a good approach to have.’’

And he can dunk. Who knew? Not Mirotic.

The rookie was shocked to watch the dunk he threw down in the Rockets game when the team gathered for a film session.

“I’m impressed too,’’ Mirotic said. “I didn’t expect that, really. I’m not a guy who dunks like that, really. It was big surprise for me. But it was really fun for me. After the game, I saw the video, [and said] ‘Wow, Niko, you can do it!’’

As far as the league now starting to get the reports on him, Mirotic was already feeling that.

“Sometimes when I’m on the court, there are not focused on me [with their defense], and that’s why sometimes I have wide-open shots because they are focused on Jimmy [Butler] or Derrick [Rose] or Pau [Gasol]. The last couple of games, I think they’ve been focused on me too.’’

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