Nikola Mirotic on his return to Bulls: ‘I just want to get back strong, that’s all’

CHICAGO – Who would have thought the most anticipated interview of the Bulls 2017-2018 season came on November 29. It’s just that kind of year for the Bulls right now.

But there was an elevated level of interest for a usually tame pre-road trip workout at the Advocate Center on Wednesday. Finally after six weeks of rehab, torrents of speculation, and questions about his future following a fight with teammate Bobby Portis, reporters got to hear from Nikola Mirotic.

There were no visible signs of damage to his face, which suffered breaks when Portis hit him during a practice scuffle on October 17th. His trademark beard was on point, but his message on his future with the Bulls was still a bit scattered. Mirotic said most of the right things during the news conference – including accepting Portis’ apology – but was never quite definitive if he could get past what happened six weeks earlier.

“We both, Bobby and me, and the team are doing what we are supposed to do, being both professional,” said Mirotic. “I think we, so far, are doing good.”

But does he want to be here?

That was one of the main inquiries of reporters during the 15-minute news conference on Wednesday. Mirotic was careful not to discuss the reports that he demanded either himself or Portis be traded, only to try to convince that this is the place, for the moment, he would like to be.

“If I’m here, it means that my team needs me and I need my team too, to be back in play,” said Mirotic.

During his unusual, if not awkward time, the forward said he’s happy with the support he’s received from the front office and his teammates through the rehab process. He won’t be heading to Denver with the Bulls for their game on Thursday, instead he’ll hit the floor for practice with the Windy City Bulls to build back some endurance.

Once his conditioning is done, he’ll try to get back what he lost after the punch: His starting spot. It’s going to take some work considering the quick success of rookie Lauri Markkanen and Mirotic’s acclimation to game play over the next few weeks. While frustrated with the way things played out, the forward is doing his best to put on a positive face.

“I’m used to the up-and-down,” said Mirotic. “Obviously, I didn’t expect this to happen, you know. Just trying to get stronger, try to stay positive after all this happened too, you know. I’m always trying to find the good things after all this situation.

“I just want to get back strong, that’s all.”

Time will tell if he does so, here or elsewhere.