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Nikola Mirotic still thinks teammate Bobby Portis has to go

ORLANDO, Fla. — Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg isn’t moving off the company line. Asked Friday about a potential meeting between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis — who severely injured Mirotic with a punch to the face in practice last month — Hoiberg stuck to his self-imposed script.

“The biggest thing is [Mirotic is] making such good progress with his physical workouts, and that’s the thing that I think everybody is most concerned with is that he’s getting better from a physical standpoint,” Hoiberg said.

Nope, Hoiberg isn’t budging. Unfortunately for all parties involved, neither is Mirotic.

Sources told the Sun-Times on Friday that Mirotic hasn’t softened on his stance that he wants either Portis or himself traded, maintaining he can no longer share a locker room with Portis. Mirotic’s camp first let the Bulls know last weekend that it was a “me or him’’ situation.

The hope was that time would help temper Mirotic’s feelings, but it now has been almost three weeks since Portis’ punch, which broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and gave him a concussion.

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Hoiberg has kept an open dialogue with Mirotic as much as possible, through text messages and phone calls, and spoke with him again Friday before the Bulls’ victory over the Magic.

“Niko had a really good workout [Friday],” Hoiberg said. “This is his third day that he’s been in working on the bike. He got a little strength training in, and he felt really good. It’s a great sign. The headache is not there anymore after he gets done with his physical activity. Had a good appointment with the doctor and will see the doctor again in two weeks. So it’s good to hear that he’s making progress.”

Asked if the ball is in Mirotic’s court for a meeting with Portis, Hoiberg said, “Well, so that will come — that will come. We did tell him that we miss him. He says he’s watching all the games, loves the effort that the guys are going out there and playing with. Loves to see Lauri [Markkanen] get off to such a great start. So he’s been very positive in the conversations we’ve had.”

Asked if he thought Mirotic was still holding a grudge against Portis, Hoiberg simply reiterated Mirotic’s physical progress report.

Finally asked if he will use that same line on any question pertaining to Mirotic and Portis meeting, Hoiberg smirked and said, “Correct.”

The Bulls return home for a game against the Pelicans on Saturday night, but Mirotic could easily get his workout in at the Advocate Center while the team is across the street at the United Center.

Besides the physical damage, the reality for Mirotic is that while he was named a starter before the Portis altercation, with Markkanen now playing so well, it’s unlikely there’s a starting job for him.

“It’s something we’re just going to take day by day,” Hoiberg said.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com