Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic says he’s better prepared for the ‘storm’ coming his way

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NEW ORLEANS — Nikola Mirotic no longer apologizes for what he says or does.

Much like his play most nights, he has been consistent in that department. And if his teammates don’t like it, well, they’d better get over it because he isn’t about to change.

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He believes he has been a positive influence in the locker room and on the court, but being positive to him also means being honest.

“I know after this storm the sun is coming again,’’ Mirotic said Monday when asked about his new mentality. “All this I’ve been through is not the end of the world. I understand this is a business, and there are things you can control and there are some things you can’t control.

“What I can control is playing well, being consistent, being a good teammate, try to improve myself every day. And I’m doing that.’’

He was attempting to do that again during the Bulls’ 132-128 double-overtime loss to the Pelicans. It wasn’t easy, especially with Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins putting up huge numbers (44 points, 24 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals).

Mirotic was one of six Bulls in double figures with 14 points. Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez led the team with 22.

In part, Mirotic’s new attitude and confidence stem from the fact that the Bulls are 15-9 since he returned after a practice altercation with Bobby Portis left him hospitalized and dealing with concussion symptoms during the first six weeks of the regular season.

But he also credited his improvement in dealing with things to “the best teammate I’ve ever had.’’ And he’s not on this season’s roster.

Mirotic had the chance to get reacquainted with Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo and stressed how important he was during their season together.

“I hate Rondo, seriously I do because he’s such a good guy, such a good professional, does everything so right,’’ Mirotic said, somewhat jokingly. “No, but seriously he is the best teammate I ever had. It’s just who he is.

‘‘He was one of those guys that every time he talked, it didn’t matter if he had a good day or a bad day, he was always there.

“I’ve had some teammates or people that just showed up when something good was happening, not bad. He understood about sticking together and getting guys on the same page. I really love him for who he is. When [the Bulls] cut him [last summer], I was really disappointed because I wanted him on my team at least another year. But this is the NBA, and we’re all moving on.’’

Some sooner than others, and Mirotic knows that. Besides dealing with being punched by a teammate, Mirotic also had his initial ultimatum — that he or Portis had to go — ignored by the front office. According to sources, that’s why Mirotic and his representatives are looking for a trade and willing to waive his no-trade clause.

“Yeah, I learned a lot from Rajon,’’ Mirotic said. “Every situation is different, but there’s no doubt that having him as a teammate has helped me [deal] with things, even this year.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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