Bulls make changes in the lineup, but Portis-Mirotic remains the same
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The Bulls will have lineup changes when they visit the Thunder on Wednesday. What they won’t have is what they want most: the end of the Nikola Mirotic-Bobby Portis drama.
Mirotic was back at the Advocate Center on Tuesday while his teammates took the court, and he still wanted nothing to do with Portis.
“Obviously, Niko and Bobby have not talked,” coach Fred Hoiberg said of the drawn-out drama. “Bobby talked about that [Monday]. Niko has had interaction with other players, and we’ll continue to work on it. Niko will continue to come in here and get his work in. Continue to ramp up his workload and hopefully be cleared for more on-court activity soon. To this point, no, there’s been no communication with Bobby and Niko.’’
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said Monday that Mirotic has been asked to be around his teammates more often in the hope that his presence would simmer the cold war.
Instead, everyone else is having to answer questions about Portis sending Mirotic to the hospital with two broken bones in his face and a concussion after punching him in a practice altercation Oct. 17.
“I’m trying to be,” Robin Lopez said when asked if it has been tough to be a team leader through this ordeal. “It’s a bit of a difficult situation, something I haven’t dealt with before. Both of those guys are my guys. I have both their best interest at heart. I’m going to do what I can to help both of them. But also, I’ve got to help the team. We’ve got to play basketball.”
Lopez was asked if he would be willing to orchestrate the meeting between the two.
“Nobody’s approached me to do anything like that,” he said, clearly tired of the line of questioning. “I’ve talked to both of them individually, just as a friend, just as an open ear.
“You’re speaking in hypotheticals. I don’t know, that’s hard for me to say.”
Hoiberg had enough when he was asked about being part of teams with players who couldn’t stand talking to each other.
“Guys, I’m gonna get our team ready to play a basketball game,” he said, all but ending the media session.
The Bulls’ opponent figures to add to their frustration. The Thunder won the first meeting 101-69 on Oct. 28.
The Bulls won’t have Justin Holiday, who stayed behind after the birth of his first child Monday night. That means Hoiberg will give Kris Dunn his first start as a Bull, with Jerian Grant sliding to the two-guard spot.
Lauri Markkanen (left ankle) practiced and is expected to start, but there could be a change at the three, with Denzel Valentine getting a long look to start over Paul Zipser.
Lopez remains the only constant, starting in the middle. He also remains the voice of reason in the Portis-Mirotic drama.
“It’s a very difficult situation, obviously,” Lopez said. “I didn’t pick up on any awkwardness [with both in the facility at the same time]. I think guys are coming in there focused on basketball. They’re focused on helping the team out as much as possible.”
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.