Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic confirmed to reporters today that he has accepted Bobby Portis‘ apology for the punch Portis threw last month. However, Mirotic’s follow-up suggested that the relationship still isn’t overly friendly. Asked if he had told Portis he’d accepted his apology, Mirotic responded, “I guess he will know now,” per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.
Mirotic’s comments to reporters today represented the first time he has spoken to the media since last month’s altercation. The 26-year-old, who continues to recover from facial injuries suffered as a result of Portis’ punch, declined to discuss the specifics of that incident, telling the media that he wants to focus on the future, writes Madeline Kennedy of The Chicago Sun-Times. That includes working alongside Portis.
“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.” Mirotic said of Portis, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. “Bobby and me and all the team is doing what we’re supposed to do, being professional. I think so far we’re doing good. We’re in a good way.”
While Mirotic is saying the right things and sounds ready to “be professional” with Portis, I expect he would still be willing to waive his no-trade clause when he becomes eligible to be dealt on January 15. There’s no indication yet that the Bulls are considering a move, but Mirotic’s camp reportedly issued an ultimatum last month, expressing a desire for him to be dealt if Portis remains on the roster. Asked today about that request, Mirotic sidestepped the subject, as Cowley details.
“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 he was asked about the reported ultimatum. When a reporter asked if he wants to be traded, Mirotic replied, “I’m really excited to be back. That’s all I can tell. That’s something my agent can tell you.”
Although the situation may not be entirely resolved, Mirotic’s stance is good news for the Bulls — as long as the 6’10” forward isn’t demanding a trade out of Chicago, the Bulls will retain some leverage should they decide to explore a deal.
As for Mirotic’s potential 2017/18 debut, head coach Fred Hoiberg indicated today that it’s not clear yet whether the big man will be back next week, but said the team is hoping he’ll be ready to go after participating in a few more practices (link via Nick Friedell of ESPN).