Bulls big man Bobby Portis: ‘I’m just over the situation, talking about Niko’

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LOS ANGELES — It was never going to get any better after the incident on Oct. 17. Once Bobby Portis threw a punch in practice, that was it. Nikola Mirotic was done with Portis and, really, done with the Bulls.

Sure, the front office tried to get the two players to sit down. Teammates tried. The coaches tried.

But too much damage was done, going well beyond the broken bones in Mirotic’s face and his concussion.

A day after the Bulls traded Mirotic to the Pelicans, Portis was asked Friday if he and Mirotic ever did try to hash it out.

“Nah, whatever happened happened,” Portis said. “We just moved on from the situation. We tried to be professional each and every day. Come in and work, try and make things work on the court, but off the court we never talked or anything. We just kind of stayed away from each other. Played cards one time — it was kind of awkward — but after that didn’t play anymore. Tried to be professional to the utmost.”

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Portis reiterated he was sorry for throwing the punch but said he doesn’t feel guilt that the blow-up caused Mirotic to want to play elsewhere.

“Guilty? No. I just come in and try and play basketball,” he said. “Every team gets into a situation, but ours just blew up because of the whole hospital thing. Other than that, I’m still sorry for what I did. I’m still coming in every day trying to be a better basketball player every day.”

He’ll have a bigger chance to do that as the first big off the bench now that Mirotic is gone. Before the Bulls left Portland on Thursday, they completed a deal that sent Mirotic and a second-round draft pick to the Pelicans. In return, they got center Omer Asik, as well as Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson, whose contracts are expiring. More important, they also received a protected first-round pick.

Allen won’t be joining the team on the rest of this trip. Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson could try to move him before the trade deadline Thursday or simply waive him. Asik and Nelson were expected in Los Angeles at some point Friday night to get their physicals and then join the team before a game with the Clippers on Saturday afternoon.

With Kris Dunn (illness) and Lauri Markkanen (birth of his son) unlikely to play the next two games, the Bulls aren’t just short-handed but also in an obvious full-court press by the front office in the tanking process.

Just don’t tell Portis and his teammates they’re tanking.

“We’re not looking at it like that,’’ Portis said. “As a basketball player, you’re not just saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to tank to get picks’ or anything. We’re just trying to do our job.”

That becomes a lot harder without Mirotic coming off the bench. The Bulls lose his 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, as well as their best outside shooting threat.

“He has really turned into a versatile player,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I think he showed his full skill set this year with the added strength. His ability to space the floor and understanding of the game helped us.”

But at least, for now, everyone got what they wanted. The front office landed a draft pick, Portis will get more playing time, and Mirotic is no longer a Bull.

“Honestly, man, I’m just over the situation, talking about Niko,” Portis said. “I just want to talk about the Chicago Bulls.”

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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