Bobby Portis finally speaks before the Bulls lose to the Spurs
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Bobby Portis said he hopes there will be a time when he and fellow Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic will be able to sit down, talk and feel like teammates again.
It wasn’t Saturday, however. And it didn’t sound as though it would be anytime soon.
Speaking publicly for the first time since punching Mirotic and sending him to the hospital with two broken bones in his face and a concussion, Portis again apologized for his actions but said his attempts to reach out to Mirotic haven’t been reciprocated.
‘‘I’m wrong for what I did,’’ Portis said before the Bulls’ 87-77 loss to the Spurs in their home opener Saturday. ‘‘I want to publicly apologize to Niko. I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls’ organization and, most importantly, my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.’’
The incident occurred during practice Tuesday after the two had several verbal and shoving confrontations in an earlier scrimmage. Coach Fred Hoiberg acknowledged the two had some heated exchanges in the last two seasons, but he filed it under healthy competition.
That changed when, according to multiple witnesses, Mirotic stepped toward Portis after the two again got into a verbal back-and-forth. Portis landed the punch, immediately sending Mirotic to the court at the Advocate Center.
Portis was asked whether Mirotic pushed him before he threw the punch and said that wasn’t the case.
‘‘I was surprised by my own reaction because that’s not who I was, as I first stated,’’ Portis said. ‘‘I’m a competitor at the end of the day, but I never meant to hurt my own teammate.’’
Portis apologized to his teammates the day the incident happened and was suspended by the Bulls for eight games Wednesday.
As for Mirotic, Hoiberg has been in contact with him and indicated he still is dealing with soreness. Once his concussion symptoms clear up, Mirotic likely will have surgery to repair the broken facial bones. He might miss five more weeks after that.
‘‘I texted Niko, and I called him,’’ Portis said. ‘‘He didn’t respond.’’
Hoiberg said he hoped time would heal the situation.
‘‘Hopefully, at some point, those guys will get together,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘They’re gonna have to in order to move past it. Hopefully, it happens soon. It’s all I can say about it.’’
While Hoiberg would like the situation to go away, it’s still the talk of the league. Spurs big man Pau Gasol, who played with Portis and Mirotic on the Bulls two seasons ago, said most of the league was surprised to hear things went that far between teammates.
‘‘I was surprised it got to that point, basically out of hand,’’ Gasol said. ‘‘I was surprised it did happen that way. Sometimes there are tensions between teammates, especially at the same position. You’re competing and fighting for minutes. But you should never let it escalate to a fight or someone throwing and delivering punches to a teammate.’’
The incident left the Bulls (0-2) short-handed, and it showed against the Spurs. Their second unit was shaky again because of so many guys playing different positions.
Rookie Lauri Markkanen, who has been starting in place of Mirotic, was a bright spot again, scoring 13 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds.
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.