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Bobby Portis sends Nikola Mirotic to hospital after altercation

Bulls forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis came into camp last month fighting for a starting spot.

On Tuesday, they were just fighting.

And this wasn’t your typical NBA non-fight fight.

According to multiple witnesses, Portis and Mirotic had a heated confrontation in practice, resulting in an apparent shoving match. Portis, however, took it a step further, landing what was deemed a “sucker punch’’ to Mirotic’s face.

Mirotic, 26, was taken to a hospital and, according to the Bulls, suffered a concussion as well as several broken bones in his face that will require surgery once the swelling goes down. The Bulls ruled out Mirotic indefinitely and promised  a “significant’’ punishment for Portis.

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Bulls turn focus to the cleanup after the Mirotic-Portis altercation

Mirotic signed a two-year extension this offseason, added almost 30 pounds of muscle and came into the season looking to prove his doubters wrong.

“I know that you guys are very disappointed,’’ Mirotic said earlier in camp of his NBA career. “I saw [those reactions] the last two, three years.

‘‘I worked on all my weaknesses this summer. It’s time to change some things. I’m in a place where I can improve and get better. I’m looking forward. It’s not just proving [to the media] or the fans. It’s more proving to myself than you guys.’’

He was doing just that, outplaying Portis enough in practice and in preseason games to be named the starter.

As for Portis, 22, he was entering the always-pivotal third NBA season, still trying to find steady work. He was being counted on as a key rotation player, getting most of his playing time at power forward.

Drafted 22nd overall in 2015, Portis had a few eye-opening moments, including a 19-point showing in Game 1 of the playoff series against the Celtics last season.

“I just want repetition, so I can show what I can do,’’ Portis said in camp. “Ultimately, I’m always a team guy. I want the team to win first.

“As long as our team is getting better and getting wins, that’s all that matters to me.’’

The Bulls said Portis apologized to the team after the incident, but he already was ruled out of the opener Thursday against the Raptors.

The Bulls were in contact with the league office Tuesday night but will make a final decision on Portis by Wednesday.

As for the game against Toronto, considering how well rookie Lauri Markkanen played in his last two preseason games, there’s a good chance he’ll get the starting nod.

Markkanen missed the first three games of the preseason with back issues, then was less than stellar in his debut against the Pelicans, shooting 1-for-9 from the field, including 0-for-6 from three-point range.

But the 7-foot stretch four turned it around quickly, scoring 18 points against the Cavaliers, including 15 in the fourth quarter.

He followed that game with a 13-point performance Friday against the Raptors, shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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