Nikola Mirotic has been grounded as the Bulls keep looking to trade him

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Nikola Mirotic finally found a new home Wednesday night. But he wasn’t expecting it to be the team hotel.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson announced that Mirotic would be shut down while the team tries to find a landing spot for him before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

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Coach Fred Hoiberg said it was a mutual decision between the Bulls and Mirotic’s camp, but the drama continues.

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who obviously wasn’t interested in the Bulls’ ongoing soap opera, scored 50 points, including a franchise-record 28 in the first quarter, in only 29 minutes in the Trail Blazers’ 124-108 victory.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Bulls and Pelicans had a deal in the works that would’ve sent Mirotic to New Orleans for a first-round pick, and the Bulls also would take on the rest of Omer Asik’s contract.

The trade never happened because Mirotic and his representatives didn’t like the idea of walking away from a possible guaranteed $12.5 million next season, which would’ve been the case if they had waived the no-trade clause and accepted the deal.

The Bulls inevitably have the final veto power over where Mirotic can be traded, but they would have to pick up the team option for next season, meaning his new team would be on the hook for next season’s salary.

New Orleans didn’t want to make that commitment to Mirotic, especially with its payroll in bad shape. The Pelicans are still hopeful that they can max out soon-to-be free agent DeMarcus Cousins with an offseason offer.

While the talks between the teams have cooled, a source said the deal is not completely dead yet. It’s on life support.

The good news for the Bulls is that there’s still interest around the league for Mirotic.

The Bulls want to do everything they can to protect their top trade asset, even if it means starting Paul Zipser against the Blazers.

“I didn’t hear anything about [a trade],’’ Hoiberg said. “My job is to get our guys to compete.’’

Meanwhile, Mirotic’s roller-coaster season continues.

Even before the Oct. 17 practice altercation with teammate Bobby Portis, animosity had been building between Mirotic and his teammates.

Rather than spend the summer working out with his young teammates, Mirotic — a restricted free agent at the time — made the decision to work on his body. That meant working alone. That plan didn’t sit well with many, especially when he was named a starter near the end of training camp.

Mirotic never did get that starting spot because of Portis’ punch and the emergence of Lauri Markkanen.

That scenario fed into Mirotic wanting to be elsewhere, especially after the team refused to comply with his initial November ultimatum that he or Portis had to go.

To his credit, Mirotic has played the role of good soldier, mostly saying the right things.

“The good thing is that I have the option, but I’m making it together with my team,’’ Mirotic said. “[My representatives have] been fighting for me all year. We’re gonna do what’s best for the team, for me. So far, we’re not sure about what we’re gonna do yet.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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