His relationship with Bobby Portis, who hospitalized Mirotic in an October 17 altercation, is still strained and they haven’t spoken apart from team business, Cowley adds. The organization isn’t trying to force them to resolve their differences as long as they communicate effectively as teammates.
Because he didn’t re-sign until late September, Mirotic isn’t eligible to be traded until January 15. His representatives have told the Bulls’ front office that he would accept a deal if it puts him on a contending team. There will be a 24-day window to trade Mirotic before the February 8 deadline, and it’s an option the team is considering, according to Cowley, who says there’s a good chance he will be moved if Chicago can get a mid- to late first-rounder in return.
Privately, the front office is concerned that Mirotic is messing up its rebuilding plans, Cowley adds. The Bulls appeared headed for a high lottery pick with a 3-20 start, but won their first seven games with Mirotic in the lineup. They are now 10-22, the fourth worst record in the league but just seven games out of a playoff spot, with Zach LaVine expected back in January.
Mirotic is putting up the best numbers of his career since returning from facial fractures. Through nine games, he is averaging 17.9 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 51% from the floor and 48% on 3-pointers. With a $12.5MM salary and a team option for the same amount next season, he could be an inexpensive pickup for a contender, but for now he’s enjoying his success in Chicago.
“We are playing fun basketball,’’ he said. “There are a lot of young guys, not many guys that want to play iso [isolation], so it’s simple basketball, fun basketball, and I think this is an area [coach Fred Hoiberg] feels comfortable. He’s going to put all the pieces in the right situation and find the best role for guys, and he’s been figuring out how we can play with each other. I give Fred a lot of credit. This is how he’s wanted to play.’’