Bobby Portis is fine being just ‘teammates’ with Nikola Mirotic

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DENVER — Bulls forward Bobby Portis isn’t concerned with apologies or mea culpas these days.

It’s about scoring, rebounding, earning minutes and trying to help the Bulls snap out of this seven-game skid after their 111-110 last-second loss Thursday to the Nuggets.

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So while he heard through the grapevine that Nikola Mirotic accepted his public apology, Portis wasn’t moved by the gesture one way or the other.

“Nah, I just want to play ball, man,’’ said Portis, who was asked if he would’ve preferred hearing directly from Mirotic rather than through the media.

“Like I’ve been saying, I just want to hoop. I’ve been having a good year so far. I’ve been doing everything I can to help my team win and improving game by game. I’m just focused on trying to play ball.’’

Meeting with the media for the first time Wednesday since being punched in the face by Portis on Oct. 17, Mirotic said he had accepted Portis’ public apology. When asked if he had expressed that directly to Portis, he said, “I guess he will know now.’’

That seemed to be fine with Portis. They believe they can remain professional in the locker room and on the court with each other and have no relationship beyond basketball.

Mirotic made it clear that he plans to approach the situation like that, and Portis all but seconded it before the game.

“Why couldn’t I? We’re teammates,’’ Portis said when asked about sharing the locker room with Mirotic. “We’re both trying to help this team win as much as possible.

“Some teammates don’t jell off the court, but on the court, they have to make ends meet for the team needs. If that’s what we have to do, then that’s what we have to do.’’

That dynamic will get even more interesting when Mirotic is ready to return to the court.

He and Portis play the same position, and Mirotic beat out Portis for the starting job in training camp. Will there be lingering resentment if Portis starts losing minutes to Mirotic?

Coach Fred Hoiberg said there’s no definite plan in place for when Mirotic gets back, but the Bulls will have five big men to keep happy in Robin Lopez, Lauri Markkanen, Cristiano Felicio, Portis and Mirotic, so expect less playing time.

Mirotic was back in Chicago practicing with the G League Windy City Bulls and got in a good two-hour workout.

“A lot will depend on how [Mirotic] feels [Friday],’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s really in training-camp mode right now.’’

Hoiberg has bigger concerns in the wake of this latest defeat. His young team still has to learn how to pull out victories.

After Kris Dunn gave the Bulls (3-17) the lead on a layup with nine seconds left, Will Barton drove right past Justin Holiday for his 37th point and the game-winner.

“We had been pushing them to the middle all night long, and just a mistake [by Holiday] letting him go to the baseline side,’’ Hoiberg said.

“I pretty much just didn’t do my job,’’ Holiday said. “I let my teammates down.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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