Nikola Mirotic will be professional with Bobby Portis, but that’s it
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Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic said he has accepted teammate Bobby Portis’ public apology. He just hasn’t told Portis that to his face and likely won’t anytime soon.
‘‘I guess he will know now,’’ Mirotic said Wednesday, when he met with reporters for the first time since a practice altercation between the two Oct. 17 sent Mirotic to the hospital with a concussion and two broken bones in his face.
Mirotic said he and Portis, who was suspended for the Bulls’ first eight games for punching Mirotic, will support each other on the court but made it clear there won’t be a relationship between the two away from the court.
Mirotic had just been named the starter at power forward — over Portis and rookie Lauri Markkanen — and was set to begin a very important fourth season when the altercation occurred.
The Sun-Times has reported Portis and Mirotic had run-ins in practice the last two seasons, but they never escalated beyond some shoving. In this incident, witnesses said that Mirotic stepped toward Portis aggressively and that Portis punched him.
The two haven’t spoken since, and Mirotic and his representatives told the Bulls that Portis had to go or that Mirotic would be willing to waive his no-trade clause so that he could be traded when he’s eligible in mid-January.
Mirotic said he wouldn’t talk about the incident, but he didn’t back off the idea his ultimatum was still out there.
‘‘I just know that right now, the only goal — the Bulls’ goal and my goal — is to make me get back with the team and practice together and get my strength back and, as soon as I can, play with the team,’’ Mirotic said.
When asked whether he wanted to be traded, Mirotic said: ‘‘I’m really excited to be back. That’s all I can tell. That’s something my agent can tell you.’’
Mirotic said he had no comment about the length of Portis’ suspension, but he said he felt support from the Bulls and his teammates after the incident.
He admitted it has been hard for him to get back to where his conditioning and timing were in camp, but he didn’t seem concerned that Markkanen is now the starter.
‘‘The same way I lost my [job in the] starting lineup in training camp, I could win it again,’’ Mirotic said. ‘‘Obviously, it’s different now. Lauri is playing great, which I’m very happy for him, but this is not very important now, if I’m going to be starting or not.’’
Portis and Mirotic had no verbal interaction during the Bulls’ loss Tuesday to the Suns, but Mirotic — who sat on the bench for the first time this season — did give Portis a fist-bump as he came off the floor during a timeout.
That about summed up Mirotic’s mentality moving forward. He said he would remain a good teammate.
‘‘The only thing I can tell you is that I’ve been playing this game nine years professionally,’’ Mirotic said. ‘‘I was always a good teammate, always professional to everybody, and I’m going to continue to do that.
‘‘If I’m here, it’s because I want to support the team. He’s a part of the team. I’m going to support him, too. Obviously, I’m going to give him hands like he’s going to give me hands, too.’’
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