As one would expect, though something the Bulls organization was hoping against, Nikola Mirotic doesn’t appear prepared to let bygones be bygones in the wake of having his face broken by a teammate’s punch.
Tensions remain between Mirotic and the team, to the point where now there’s multiple reports that Mirotic is seeking some kind of trade, whether it’s himself or punchin’ Bobby Portis. Both KC Johnson of the Tribune and Vincent Goodwill of NBCSportsChicago have a source characterizing it as a “me or him” situation. Joe Cowley, as you’d expect, is using a bit more dramatic language: reporting outright that it’s Mirotic’s camp demanding this.
It could be several factors, all of which has been (at least to these eyes) pretty insulting to Mirotic:
- the light suspension (compared to the damage) for Portis
- the team letting Portis practice still
- Portis’s lame apology
- Fred Hoiberg, nominally the head coach, saying he won’t help the teammates reconcile
- Insistence from the front office in pushing that it was partially Niko’s fault he was punched
It’s also going to be a long road back from the injury still. Reports, and an update from Hoiberg, indicate that Niko has still yet to clear the concussion protocol to even first determine the surgery options.
Mirotic’s contract carries an implied no-trade clause, as his bird rights wouldn’t transfer in any trade, provided the team that traded for him didn’t pick up his 2nd year option. But reports are that Niko is willing to waive that to get out of town, and I’ll speculate that maybe a new team could indicate they’ll pick up that option (not sure if they can outright do it) to help grease the wheels of any trade. Since he just signed that contract, Mirotic can’t be traded at all until January 15th.
The Bulls could instead trade Portis, and Vincent Goodwill has an update there with a possible timeline:
The Bulls have talked to at least one team about Portis, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com and that activity promises to continue over the next few days.
The Bulls have until Oct 31 to pick up Portis’ team option for next season and if they move him, one would think the team that acquires Portis would like to make that decision as opposed to it being made for them.
Portis’s option is only for $2.5m, so it may not be that big of a concern to a trading team if it’s already picked up, as if they’re dealing for him that’d be a more than reasonable price for next season.
KC has written several times, including in this most recent piece, about how the Bulls could prefer Portis because he worked hard in the offseason at the Bulls facility. This seems pretty damned insane to me, but the Bulls have been really pushing that their ‘culture’ is all about, uh, being in the team’s workout videos and less so about being good at basketball. Because if it was the latter it’d be clearly Mirotic as the guy to keep...Niko was already the guy who won the starting job, a victory that Portis interpreted as entitlement and he responded with
committing towards improvement decking his rival in practice.