CLEVELAND – David Blatt saw Nikola Mirotic coming.
Maybe not to the extent of being a finalist for NBA Rookie of the Year honors this season, but make no mistake, Blatt hasn’t been the least bit surprised with the Bulls first-year player.
“Not at all,’’ Blatt said on Sunday, when asked about being taken back by Mirotic’s development. “As a matter of fact, I can specifically remember a lot of discussions with my own staff about him, and telling them all that he was going to be an outstanding NBA player. And everybody kind of looking at me sideways about that.’’
There tend to be a lot of sideways looks in the Euroleague, and that’s where Blatt grew very interested in Mirotic’s talents. He’s also quick to point out that his Maccabi Tel Aviv team had the honor of beating Mirotic and his Real Madrid squad in the 2014 Euroleague Championship game.
He was preparing for the stretch-four back then, and still game-planning for him now.
“He has proven to be a very good NBA player in his first season, and good for him because he’s a good kid, a hard worker,’’ Blatt said of Mirotic. “He really wants to succeed and wants to play right. I think he’s shown everybody that he has great potential. He’s already a good NBA player.
“Last time I saw him by the way was in the Finals of the [Euroleague] last year, and we won. I was just wondering if he told you that. Great kid, great, great talent, and I’m happy for him.’’
Mirotic was just named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month on Friday, as he averaged 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, while putting in 30.8 minutes per contest in March. Mirotic also led the entire NBA in fourth-quarter scoring with 136 total points.