PHILADELPHIA — Nikola Mirotic knows his shooting is his ticket to NBA success. But he takes a lot of pride in his improving defense. Helping force Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler into a 7-of-23 shooting night to get 16 points on Wednesday night was a step in the right direction.
It takes a trained eye to notice, though. Nobody watches Mirotic for his defense.
“I actually like that point, because it’s true,” Mirotic said. “A lot of people look at just my offense: ‘Let’s see what Nikola did — did he score threes or not?’ But I’ve been working a lot on my defense. I know it’s improved. My next goal is to step up there and rebound the ball. I need [to gain] that trust from my coach and teammates [to rebound and defend]. I feel I’m doing that.”
Mirotic’s defense still is a work-in-progress. But he’s a willing defender, even when the matchup is not the best — like against Chandler. As he noted, ‘He’s playing the 3 position. And I’m a 4. It’s not easy to guard him and I tried to do my best.”
An MRI on guard Michael Carter-Williams sprained left wrist revealed a bone chip that will require a cast. The good news — the timetable for Carter-Williams’ return is still 4-6 weeks from the time he suffered the wrist injury and a bruised knee, Oct. 31 in a victory over the Nets in Brooklyn.
‘Canaan Ball’ returns
Former Sixers guard Isaiah Canaan was introduced as Isaiah “Cannon Ball” Canaan and cheered by the home crowd when he entered the game it the first quarter — a tip of the cap for his year-and-half as a three-point shooter with the Sixers. Canaan makes an impact wherever he goes.
“I love the kid,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Sixers coach Brett Brown echoed that sentiment.
“I think he’s comfortable with those veterans around him,” Brown said. “He really helped us while he was here. He was a professional. He was tough. He made shots. I’m glad he’s found a home with the Bulls.”
Canaan, who made 235 three-pointers in 99 games with the Sixers, hit his first three-point attempt in the first quarter to give the Bulls a 19-8 lead. He finished with eight points on 2-of-9 shooting (2-of-7 on three-point shots) in the Bulls’ 105-89 victory Friday night.
The education of Jah
Former Whitney Young star Jahlil Okafor is expanding his repertoire in his second NBA season — trying to add defense and rebounding.
Okafor is averaging 10.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
“He’s improved a lot,” Brown said. “We know Jahlil loves to score. And the game is more than that. And he understands that completely and he’s trying to please. He really wants to be coached. From last year to this year I see a more committed player, trying to do the right thing. And he is making improvement in areas that we may not see if you just study the stat sheet.”