Former Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic: ‘It was time for me to kind of move on’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Nikola Mirotic played his second game with his new Pelicans teammates Monday, but before that, he talked about the deal that sent him to New Orleans and ended his stay with the Bulls.

“I felt it was time for me to kind of move on and have a new spot for me,’’ Mirotic told reporters before the game against the Jazz. “But I had a great time there. I learned a lot. And they did treat me well, too. I had a few issues, but it’s life. All focus is on my future, which is here.’’

Mirotic was traded Thursday, with the Bulls sending him to the Pelicans after the club agreed to pick up his $12.5 million option for next season. A trade was in place with the Pelicans two days earlier, but Mirotic exercised his no-trade clause when the option wasn’t being picked up.

“It is easier,’’ Mirotic said of the security he will have for the 2018-19 season. “It’s more calm for my family, too. They’re really looking forward to coming here and set up everything. The weather is way better than Chicago, which is good. When you know that you have another year here, there’s no rush. Just play simple, work hard and everything will be in place.’’

RELATED STORIES
A road curtain call for Bulls big man Robin Lopez? Trade rumors continue
Jabari Parker ‘glad’ for injuries, says they helped him see ‘purpose in life’

The Bulls landed three players in the deal, but all that mattered to vice president of basketball operations John Paxson was obtaining a protected first-round pick.

It was a win-win for both sides, especially for Mirotic, who finally left an uncomfortable situation that included a punch from teammate Bobby Portis that put him in the hospital in October.

The deal also allowed Mirotic to reunite with Rajon Rondo, whom he played with last season with the Bulls.

“It’s a big help for me, especially being traded to a new organization and having somebody like Rondo,’’ Mirotic said.

The Cam Payne trail

Point guard Cameron Payne, who was acquired at the trade deadline last year from the Thunder, will start practicing with the G-League Windy City Bulls this week as he returns from September surgery on his right foot.

He does so with a “chip on his shoulder,’’ according to coach Fred Hoiberg.

After general manager Gar Forman labeled Payne the Bulls’ “point guard of the future’’ last season and he was more of a flop, Payne hopes to show that he belongs in the NBA.

“I know he’s going to go out and play with a chip on his shoulder,’’ Hoiberg said. “At the same time, he’s got a long ways to go. This little stretch he’s got going with Windy City is very important for him to get in shape, get his timing back, work on the things he needs to do for us as a playmaker and a guy that can get us organized on both ends of the floor.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com