There's a certain school of thought from Bulls fans at this point in the offseason that the team's biggest hope for internal improvement rests on Joakim Noah's health and the development of Doug McDermott. While I certainly wouldn't discount larger contributions from both this year, there seems like two better candidates on the roster to carry more weight than they did last season: Derrick Rose and Nikola Mirotic.
Today, let's talk about Niko. Heading into his second year with the Bulls, Mirotic plans to benefit from Fred Hoiberg's more free-flowing offensive system and a larger role than he saw as a rookie under notorious rookie-hater Tom Thibodeau. He's been working with the Spanish national team this summer and will be the part of the country's Eurobasket team for a tournament that beings on September 5.
Mirotic already has a storied history playing on the youth levels for Spain and this will be his first chance to saw what he can do for the senior team. In the lead up to that event, Mirotic had a conversation with HoopsHype about his transition to the NBA, the departure of Tom Thibodea and how he sees himself fitting in under Hoiberg.
It's easy to forget about everything Mirotic was dealing with as a rookie. New country, new language ... new family. Mirotic became a father at age 23 last May for the first time and had to juggle his newfound adult responsibilities with everything Thibodeau and the NBA was throwing at him. It wasn't easy:
Very tired, to be honest. But overall it was a good year for me. It was a year of adjustment to a new situation and also difficult in the first few months. At the end of the day, you're a rookie dealing with a different routine even if you have played 5-6 years at the pro level. You start from scratch there. There were plenty of new things for me... New city, new language... It was a little complicated at the beginning, but I was lucky enough to find teammates and a club that had my back.
On the subject of becoming a father, Mirotic said:
NM: That's been one of the hard parts. You come in with a newborn baby, just three months old, and you find yourself in a new city, new surroundings... It wasn't easy. Those are the type of things that make you more mature and more responsible person. All in all, things have gone well.
Mirotic said he was fortunate to have both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah help with him with his transition to the NBA and the United States. Noah, of course, also has European roots. I enjoyed hearing Niko talk about Jo.
NM: Aside from being a great player, he's a great person and a great teammate. He's somebody you can learn a lot from. He comes in to work every day and puts his heart out on the court. He's a very positive person and when you see how hard he works, you want to emulate that. He's a motivator and a very important person in the locker room. There's many positives with Joakim.
Mirotic also downplayed the alleged rift between Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, talked about how Thibodeau helped him even as he wasn't getting regular playing time and spoke a bit on Hoiberg coming to see him and Pau in Spain. Read the whole thing at HoopsHype.