Nikola Mirotic won’t miss 2015.
Especially December 2015.
To say it was a rough last month for the Bulls forward would be an understatement. He averaged 7.6 points per game, had a .361 shooting percentage from the field, and had a dismal display from three-point range (.309 percent).
But there has been some life for the second-year player since the calendar flipped last week.
In his first two games, Mirotic scored 17 points in each on 59 percent shooting, as well as 7-for-12 from three-point range.
“I need to keep shooting,’’ Mirotic said on Tuesday. “That’s the only way you’re going to start to make shots. I’ve been coming to the practice [facility] at night too, taking more shots. That’s the only way I can progress. But I’m coming again. I’m still here.’’
That he is, and starting to understand that if he wants playing time in Fred Hoiberg’s deep rotation, he’s going to have to be versatile enough to not only play the four, but the three spot.
“Yeah, that’s the mentality,’’ Mirotic said. “We have a really deep team, great players, playing at a great level, so it’s not easy to find minutes. So now I should play the three, and that’s the way. I need to work hard, I need to improve, I need to set my mind on the different style, but like I said, we’ve [been winning] and that’s great.
“If the team is winning, I’m happy.’’
If he keeps playing team defense like he has the past few wins, you know who else will be happy? His coach.
While Hoiberg admittedly knows the defense has suffered a bit with Mirotic playing the three, there has been improvement.
“Our defensive efficiency has gone down but our offensive efficiency has gone up, pretty significantly with [Mirotic] at that spot,’’ Hoiberg said. “It’s continuing to work with him, getting him comfortable guarding fours pretty much all through training camp. Now getting him in that mindset of guarding threes, and guarding smaller players and isolation actions. And again, he’s done a solid job of that.’’
Working with Noah
While Noah is still sidelined with a small tear in his left shoulder, Hoiberg continued to explain why the team functions better with him working with the second unit as opposed to being a starter.
The numbers have shown that while Noah helps the team’s defensive efficiency, the offense suffers, especially last season.
“With Jo, we figured out a pretty good system with that second unit,’’ Hoiberg said. “To give Jo with the ball in the middle of the floor with everybody else spread out, he’s a good playmaker, he reads the situation well.
“There are certain things that we morph into with Jo leading the second unit. He’s second in assists. he’s very good with the backdoor pass. If it’s not there, he’ll go to a dribble handoff. Then offensive rebounds, I thought he was doing a better job of that and getting baskets that way.’’
Noah hasn’t played since Dec. 21.