So do you trust him now?
It’s a simple question concerning Bulls stretch-four Nikola Mirotic, and one that has been asked frequently about the third-year player.
Yet, a question that seems to pop up a handful of times each season when it comes to Mirotic.
But fresh off a 20-point performance in the Monday win over Indiana – coincidentally Mirotic’s fifth-straight double-digit scoring game – there it was once again.
Has Mirotic done enough where Bulls fans can embrace him as a core player moving forward?
“Of course I need to be more consistent,’’ Mirotic said when asked about where he was with his game these days. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I think it’s been a few games where it’s been better. I’m shooting better, I’m trying to rebound the ball, trying to pass. Playing simple basketball. That’s what I’m doing. That’s my game. I know it’s cost me a little bit to find that way, but I’m not happy with this right now. I need to keep building from this point.
“I know there are a lot of things I can improve. I know my weaknesses, I know my strengths, so I need to just keep working hard.’’
As is his front office.
Mirotic’s inconsistencies off the bench, especially this season, have been very public. Coach Fred Hoiberg has called out Mirotic about his up-and-down performances, as well as VP of basketball operations John Paxson.
Paxson went as far as to go on a local radio show and even admit that Mirotic needed to get out of his own head and find some confidence.
When the Bulls drafted and stashed him over in the EuroLeague for a few seasons, the hope was he would develop into a scoring threat, especially from the outside. What they have received is a guy that has seemingly lost his way from the outside, shooting just over 30 percent from beyond the three-point line through his first 29 games this season, and a player who seems to be getting worse from out there.
Add on top very shaky defense, and Hoiberg had no choice but to bench him for two-straight games last week, giving Mirotic his first two career DNP [Did Not Play] Coach’s Decision.
Not exactly a high point for the 25 year old.
“I don’t know,’’ Mirotic said, when asked if the benching could have been a positive for him. “I don’t want to go back. I just want to move forward. I know I can be much better. I need to improve, I need to keep working hard. I need to be like I’ve always been.
“Let the guys know they can trust in me. The players and the coach. I accepted my role, what they wanted me to do. I’ve been accepting of it all year, all this time, but at the end of the day I’m happy that we [beat Indiana].’’
Since the benching, Mirotic has scored 13 points in a win over Detroit, followed by 11, 11,11, and then the 20 he put on Indiana.
“The difference is just trying to be the same guy, trying to be positive,’’ Mirotic said. “I’ve always been professional. I respect everybody here, the coaches, the players. I said to myself, ‘Niko, do what you gotta do.’ That’s how it is right now, it’s been hard, but the only thing you can do is keep working. Once your chance is back when you would play you need to do the best you can. That’s what I did.’’
But enough to yet again trust him moving forward?
That’s a selling point that Mirotic continues to fail in.