Could Nikola Mirotic’s return to the Bulls’ lineup come sooner than later?

CHICAGO – Leave it to Robin Lopez to put some comic relief on an uncomfortable, unusual, and frankly awkward situation.

Sitting on a chair opposite of the media cameras at the Advocate Center on Monday, Bobby Portis was a few feet away from the player he slugged during a practice on October 17th. For the first time since that incident, the players were taking part in a practice together as Nikola Mirotic was cleared to start full workouts.

He won’t play Tuesday against the Suns at the United Center, but he’s making the trip to Denver on Wednesday with the team. Yes, Portis and Mirotic have yet to speak to each other yet, making for another interesting moment in the next few weeks.

Does this phase Lopez? Not really.

“I think that’s something a lot of people encounter in the league. It’s a very competitive league. But we’re professionals for a reason, right?”

A reporter then asked “Can you name a teammate now.”

“Brook Lopez,” said Lopez, referring to his brother, which brought out a few laughs on a serious day of news at the Advocate Center.

While the answer provided a moment of comic relief, the Bulls still have to make these players work together on the court. Following a fight that knocked each out the lineup for an extended period of time, it might be a while.

Mirotic wasn’t talking during practice on Monday but Fred Hoiberg was still optimistic the guys could patch things up to a degree so that they can carry on a professional working relationship on the floor.

“They’ll need to be some interaction at some point now that they’re out there, playing together,” said Hoiberg of Mirotic and Portis. “They’ll be playing on the same team, they’ll be playing against each other, so it is important to get those guys communicating, which I think we’re all confident that will happen.”

Time will certainly tell. At the least the Bulls will soon get to see the forward whom they signed to a two-year, $27 million dollar contract. Any positive push the team can get would be appreciated after a brutal 3-15 start to the season.

“The important thing is getting Niko back on the floor, getting him back with the team. He’s been around, doing a lot of his own thing as he’s been through the rehab process,” said Hoiberg of Mirotic. “Even when we were on the road, it sounds like he had a great week of work in the weight room and also on the floor, where he’s able to do more and more every day.

“We’re all excited to get him back out.”

Meanwhile we wait to see what the next part of the Mirotic-Portis drama will bring.