Nikola Mirotic hasn’t changed his stance, but the Bulls have
The Bulls have been very sensitive about making sure forward Nikola Mirotic has had his space.
On Monday, though, they brought some reality into the situation.
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said the Bulls are all but requiring Mirotic to come in and be around his teammates now that his activity has reached a level where they can start thinking about a return to the court.
‘‘I think what has to be understood is that we weren’t going to be in a position to continuously accommodate those needs,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘When [Mirotic] started to get healthy, because he’s on our roster, it’s incumbent on him to be around when the team’s around. That’s just a part of it. I look at it this way: We want him to start coming around more. And it is on him to do that.’’
Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis were involved in well-publicized altercation Oct. 17 in which Portis punched Mirotic, breaking two bones in his face and sending him to the hospital with a concussion.
The two haven’t spoken since, despite Portis reaching out with texts and voice messages, and Mirotic and his representatives all but told the Bulls one of them would have to go because Mirotic doesn’t want to play with Portis anymore.
‘‘Like I said last week, I’m not going to really talk about anything that’s been asked of us,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘The reality is that you just can’t move a guy for the sake of moving him. We’re going to have to do what’s in our best interests, first and foremost. That’s how we’re going about it day-to-day.
‘‘Both Niko and Bobby are on our roster right now. And Niko’s getting cleared to do more and more. This obviously is coming to a position where it’s going to have to be resolved between the two.’’
In other words, someone has to blink.
One source close to the situation said that Mirotic and his camp have been very civil when talking to the Bulls but that they have to understand the reality of the market.
Mirotic drew little interest as a restricted free agent during the summer, when teams could have bid low and set the market on him. Now that they would have to give up an asset for him and that he has a dollar amount attached to him ($12.5 million this season with a team option of $12.5 million next season), a trade is unlikely.
The best-case scenario would be for Mirotic to return, play well and re-establish a market for his services. If he and Portis can patch things up along the way, that would be a bonus.
‘‘They are adults,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘This is our workplace. They’re both part of the team. I think it’s pretty simple.’’
Still, the Bulls are willing to take that part slowly.
‘‘That’s the thing we’ve been really trying to get to,’’ Paxson said. “But you can understand the difficulty of that. We’ve had discussions with [Mirotic] and his representatives, but it’s something we’re still trying to work through. We don’t have an answer for that yet.’’
Neither did Portis, who still hopes things can be fixed but won’t put himself out there again if Mirotic doesn’t want that.
‘‘I’m a normal guy,’’ Portis said. ‘‘I’m a guy that’s a high-character guy, low-maintenance guy. I’d welcome him in with open arms.’’
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