Photo by K.C. Johnson.
Bulls’ teammates Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic were involved in an altercation during practice Tuesday, Oct.17.
The Bulls have found themselves in the news for the wrong reason, and it’s not because of their losing record.
Just two days before their first regular season game on Oct. 17 against the Raptors, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic broke out in an argument during practice. The two forwards were battling for a spot in the starting lineup, and are known to be highly competitive. They exchanged choice words before a brief shoving match ensued. Portis then punched Mirotic, breaking two bones in his face and giving him a concussion.
Mirotic was immediately rushed to the hospital, where he received news that his injury may require surgery. The fourth-year forward, whom the Bulls said also acted aggressively preceding the punch, will be out of play for up to six weeks.
Portis was suspended for eight games by the Bulls for his actions.
“Bobby Portis is not a bad person,” said John Paxson, Bulls president of basketball operations. “He’s a good kid but he made a mistake.”
Portis, a 2015 first round draft pick, addressed the press and apologized publicly to Mirotic.
“I’m wrong for what I did,” said Portis. “I want to publicly apologize to Niko. I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”
Portis wants to repair his relationship with Mirotic in order for the two to function as teammates again. He reached out to Mirotic with a call and text message, but had not received a response.
Both Portis and Mirotic are building blocks for the rebuilding Bulls, but there’s a realistic chance Mirotic may move and develop on another team. Mirotic will reportedly be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the Bulls decide to keep Portis. Mirotic resigned with Chicago as a free agent in the offseason, so a trade would not be possible until January.
Paxson is unsure the players can co-exist as teammates moving forward. “Your hope is that as time goes on, there can be some communication where it gets resolved,” said Paxson.
Mirotic remains in the concussion protocol, but has recently been cleared for light physical activities. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.
Chicago’s coaching staff is mainly concerned with Mirotic’s recovery process, hoping he can get back to feeling like himself soon. “Hopefully at some point these guys will get together,” said Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. “They’re going to have to in order to move past it, so hopefully that happens soon.”
Prior to their season beginning, a CBS sports NBA analyst predicted the Bulls to have a 1.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. Chicago will need to keep team behavior in line if they are going to compete for the playoffs.