Forward Nikola Mirotic was still wearing a Bulls uniform when the final horn sounded Monday after a 119-111 victory against the Heat.
Yes, Mirotic remains a likely candidate to be traded after he became eligible to be dealt Monday, but that doesn’t mean the Bulls’ front office is planning to give him away to the first team that calls. A source indicated the Bulls will continue to be patient with the process, making sure they leave potential buyers ample time to get into the mix or to raise their offers as the Bulls look for the best possible return for Mirotic.
Mirotic, who must waive a no-trade clause in his contract to be dealt, said he’s leaving it all in the hands of his representatives.
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“I didn’t talk to [the Bulls’ front office recently],” he said. “Probably my agents are talking, so I don’t know so far what’s going on, but I know my name is going to be out there. I’m doing my job, and I’m sure they’re doing their job, and we’re both going to do what’s best for the team.”
Coach Fred Hoiberg praised Mirotic for his attitude as trade talk swirls around him.
“Niko has been awesome throughout this process,” Hoiberg said. “And it’s not easy when your name is getting thrown out there as much as his is. A couple of our other guys, as well.”
Center Robin Lopez and guard Justin Holiday also could have a change of address sooner than later if the right offers come in.
“The thing you talk to your team about is worrying about what you can control,” Hoiberg said.
The Bulls were in control Monday afternoon at the United Center. They snapped the Heat’s seven-game winning streak, and guard Zach LaVine provided more evidence that his surgically repaired left anterior cruciate ligament is feeling good.
Making his second appearance with the Bulls since the draft-night trade with the Timberwolves that sent Jimmy Butler north, LaVine dominated in his nearly 20 minutes, scoring 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 2-for-4 from beyond the three-point line. He also had five assists.
“He is the difference, especially because he came with a lot of confidence shooting and he looks so fast out there,” Mirotic said.
Not that it was an easy victory. They seldom are with this Bulls team. A 19-point lead was down to five points with 1:05 left in the game, but rookie Lauri Markkanen hit a clutch three-pointer.
Markkanen’s previous three-pointer put him at 100 faster than anyone in NBA history. He needed only 41 games to hit 100; the Warriors’ Stephen Curry needed 58.
Lopez finished with 10 points and six rebounds, Holiday had 25 points (including a career-high seven three-pointers) and Mirotic scored 18 points, all in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls hit 16 of 39 three-pointers (41 percent) — their eighth consecutive game with at least 10 threes, a franchise record.
But the question remains: How many more games will Mirotic wear a Bulls uniform?
“It starts with the next one [Wednesday against] Golden State,” Mirotic said when asked that question. “That’s my goal. My mind is ‘Get ready for that game.’ That’s all I can control. To be honest, I’m just enjoying the moment.”
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