For all the naysayers that feel Nikola Mirotic shouldn’t be a candidate for Rookie of the Year because of his Spanish League experience?
The 6-foot-10 Bulls big man actually agrees with you.
“Maybe because I played three and four years total [in the Spanish League] too, I don’t know,’’ Mirotic said Saturday, after the Bulls shootaround. “I really don’t feel like a rookie too. I know that I’m a rookie because this is my first year in the NBA. But I played before in Spain five years professionally. And I won five professional championships there with Real Madrid.
“I’m lucky because I’m always playing with the good and big teams like Real and Chicago right now. I think that my players, when they talk to me, they don’t think of me as a rookie. They really respect in me and believe in me and trust me on the court. That’s a really good feeling and it really helps me a lot.’’
Not that Mirotic hasn’t earned that respect, especially as of late.
He’s not only averaging 20.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game since Mar. 1, but over that same time he’s led the entire NBA in fourth quarter scoring.
“It’s my moment right now,’’ Mirotic said. “I don’t think about whether the coach is surprised or not. I just try to play my basketball. [Coach Tom Thibodeau is] going to make decisions if I’m going to play more or less and I respect all of his decisions, just like I respect in the beginning of the season when I didn’t play a lot.
“I’m here to work hard and be ready for my opportunity. This right now is my opportunity and I want to play good and hard and improve.’’