Bulls' Nikola Mirotic says he expects to make season debut this week

Monday, 04 December 2017, 03:46:17 AM. After several G-League practices and taking full contact, Mirotic feels good enough to return to the court for the struggling Bulls this week.

Nikola Mirotic has met with reporters twice in the last week. It finally sounds like talking time is over.

Sidelined with a concussion and two broken bones in his face courtesy of a Bobby Portis punch during an altercation in practice, Mirotic said on Sunday that he’s ready to start playing basketball again, and will likely do so within the next few games.

“We don’t know the exact date yet but it’s gonna be day by day,’’ Mirotic said. “But we’re expecting to be back, hopefully, this week.’’

The Bulls play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, and while a return for Mirotic in that game seems a long shot, the Bulls then take a two-city trip to Indiana and Charlotte. That’s when Mirotic is plotting his regular-season debut.

“The only preference is when I’m back, I’m ready to play,’’ Mirotic said. “I could be there but not truly in good form. But the goal is when I’m back, I’m ready to help the team.’’

Considering the Bulls have lost eight straight and are 3-18 overall, Mirotic’s help is definitely needed.

“We’ve got some ideas,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said when asked how Mirotic would be used. “With Bobby [Portis] out with the arm contusion last game, Cris [Felicio] I thought went out and gave us good quality minutes. Paul Zipser’s playing with a lot more confidence right now. Even though he didn’t make a shot against Miami, I thought he looked really good. And then we put him back out there against Denver, and he had a solid game out there.

“The big thing is to just continue to see what things look like with the rotation and practices and obviously in the game and then try to put the best groups out there on the floor.’’

A Mirotic return would also be big for the front office, as it clearly remains sensitive to the entire situation, including Mirotic’s camp issuing an ultimatum to the Bulls that either Portis would go or Mirotic would want out.

Though there is still no indication from Mirotic that he wants to stay with the Bulls long-term, they would at least have him on the floor short-term, hoping to still get the two teammates to meet and hash out their issues.

Neither player has indicated that a meeting would be realistic anytime soon, especially with Mirotic refusing to speak to Portis away from the court and willing to just keep the relationship “professional.’’

Sources indicated that the Bulls have received almost zero interest in either player on the trade market, so that’s not a real option now.

The best-case scenario is Mirotic to return, play well and then revisit the ultimatum and the trade market come mid-January when the stretch-four would be eligible to be moved.

“Niko’s in great spirits,’’ Hoiberg said. “Again, the important thing is to get him back in basketball shape right now. He and Bobby have had their moments together since he’s been back on the practice court. Again, they’ve practiced with each other on the same team, and they’ve also gone against each other. I do think that’s behind us now.

“The important thing is just going out, concentrating and focusing on basketball.”

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