A healed face, solid individual play, and winning has convinced Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic to let bygones be bygones, at least for now.
Not even two months removed from a fight at practice with teammate Bobby Portis that left him with facial fractures and a concussion, Mirotic is ready to move on from the altercation and let his performance on the basketball court be his publicist. Per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
I’m not angry at anyone. I’m doing fine with myself. My family is great. There’s nothing to be angry about now. It’s all over. It’s a new beginning.
And, just to prove that the statement isn’t merely lip service, Mirotic has not only coexisted but thrived sharing the floor with his assailant in his first two games back from injury. Per ESPN.com writer Nick Friedell.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the two-man lineup of Mirotic and Portis has played 24 minutes together, combining for a 115.6 offensive rating and a 103.8 defensive rating, for an 11.8-net positive. The Bulls have scored 223 points over these last two wins, 59 of which have been while Portis and Mirotic were both on the floor, a plus-7 together on the floor.
According to NBA.com, the Mirotic-Portis pairing has been the Bulls fifth most productive duo by net rating (11.8) among two-man lineups that have played at least 20 minutes together in the last two games.
There’s no coincidence here. I said to [assistant coach] Randy Brown before the Charlotte game that we were going to win that game, and he said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because I’m back.’ And we won that game. Today I told him, too, ‘Randy, we’re going to be 2-0.’ He said, ‘Niko, I trust you.’ We’re 2-0. There’s no coincidence.’
In those two games, Mirotic has averaged 12.5 points on 47.1 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from 3-point land. Portis has averaged 9.5 points on a scorching 81.8 percent from the field in those two games.
If that “me or him” ultimatum still stands behind the outward veil of forgiveness, Mirotic is beginning to do his part to pad his trade value enough to make a trade more of a possibility. He watched stunned as his free agent market quickly dried up this summer, and reportedly there was no market for him or Portis while the altercation was still fresh in everyones’ minds. But with contenders desperate to solidify their rosters for championship runs prior to the Feb. 8 trade deadline, every three Mirotic knocks down helps him build the case to get out of Chicago in that the Bulls will actually get something of value in return.
Mirotic and Portis have proven through two games that they can coexist when the team is winning. But when the losing inevitably returns, will Mirotic continue to be able to put on his happy face?
Maybe so if the Bulls public relations team keeps on putting out this content.