Once Mirotic got closer to returning, he had to watch from an exercise machine above the Bulls’ practice court as Portis continued working out with his teammates in between games. The iciness between the two teammates took a toll on everyone within the organization. “I know everyone says I’m the bad guy, I hit him,” Portis said. “But it was hard for me personally because I couldn’t play basketball, I had to stay away, I couldn’t come in the gym certain hours because Niko had to come in the gym. It was just a difficult situation all around because I feel like I was isolated, too.”
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While multiple teammates publicly acknowledged that Portis shouldn’t have hit Mirotic, they, along with coach Fred Hoiberg and executive vice president John Paxson, stood behind Portis in saying he was a good teammate who had made a mistake. “The thing with Bobby was we had to find a way to move on, to get past it,” Hoiberg said. “It was tough. I know how bad he felt after the incident. Was it a little awkward when everybody got back in the gym? Yeah, it was a little bit. But again, they found a way to put it behind them, and Niko deserves a ton of credit for handling everything the way he did and finding a way to come out and play the best basketball of his career, and Bobby, as well.”
Edwards was hoping to get a chance to speak to Mirotic during a moms trip the Bulls organized during a road trip to New York City in January, but the pair never crossed paths. “I would have loved to talk to him,” Edwards said. “Because me, personally, I’ve been in situations — I don’t hold grudges, and I hope he never holds a grudge against BP or any aspect of whatever stuff happened.”
Portis, whom The Athletic reported will finally share his side in a piece for The Player’s Tribune, drew an eight-game team suspension. “I felt he wasn’t maybe very happy,” Mirotic said of Portis after Mirotic beat him out for the starting power forward job in training camp. “It’s not a great moment to talk about. We all make mistakes. I think like Bobby said when he apologized that he made a mistake. And I’m going to stay with the good memories. We kind of fixed it by playing. When I came back, we started winning. We both played together great. Trust me, looking back, I said I did forgive Bobby. I’m not here to judge or try to get back with what happened. I’m cool and trying to be focused to play my best basketball. I’m trying to enjoy this great moment.”
KC Johnson: Paxson on Mirotic-Portis: “Niko handled it really, really well when he came back. He played terrific and with confidence. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Nikola Mirotic on the Bobby Portis incident: “Not even in your worst nightmares you expect that to happen, much less with a teammate in practice. It’s not the time to go into detail and talk about it. It was a tough time because I had given up on the National Team, I had put in the work in the summer, because I was going to be in the starting lineup and felt this was going to be my year. I knew because I felt ready… Not being able to start the season and lose your spot over something like that was very hard. It took time for me to understand and be positive, but I have proved nothing can break me.”
Nikola Mirotic: “We’re both competitive. But it’s one thing to be competitive and another to do what he did. It was a normal relationship. We were pros. We practiced, did our jobs, went back home and that was it.
What’s your recollection of that day? Nikola Mirotic: “I remember very well, but I don’t want to talk about it. The media in the U.S. wants me to tell my side of the story, but it’s not the right time. When I think it is, I will discuss it.
How’s the relationship with Portis now? Nikola Mirotic: “It has changed. I don’t talk to him and he doesn’t talk to me. We only speak with each other on the court and only because we have to.”
Mirotic, who is averaging career highs of 18.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this season, knows that his and Portis’ ability to coexist again has been a catalyst for the group. “I think it was huge,” Mirotic told ESPN on Wednesday night. “I think it was huge because people didn’t know how we were going to act because it was a tough moment obviously for all of us, especially for me. But I think [up to now] we’ve handled it well. We’ve tried to be professional. That was really important for the guys because we kind of tried to stick together. And being back was a great [thing] for me, for my teammates. Right now we are all looking forward for Zach [LaVine] to be back, and we could be complete again. I think we’re going to be in really good shape.”
So when Portis and Mirotic work the spread game to rare perfection, it’s second nature to slap five on the way back downcourt. Mirotic rolling hard to the basket freed up Portis for one of his three triples. Portis sealing off his man led to the Celtics overhelping, leading to a Mirotic jumper. “Bobby and I, we’re playing good,” Mirotic said. “We are finding each other during the game, and we are bringing the energy the team needs.” “When we’re both on the court, it seems the team is playing really well. We need to give that credit to Fred because Fred is the one making us play. He’s the guy calling the plays and putting us in the right spot to play.
Hoiberg said he’s not surprised by the chemistry between the two, and whether all will ever be well shouldn’t be expected. But Hoiberg is either clairvoyant or lying when he said he saw this coming. “I’m not. They’re both pros,” Hoiberg said. “They’re both guys that are gonna go out and play with great passion and emotion. You can see it with the way they’re playing off each other out there. It’s been fun to watch.”
“I don’t want to keep talking about me and Niko,” Portis said. “We’re just going out there, playing our games. Playing off each other. It’s good for our second unit. Our second unit’s been clicking real well, and it’s been fun.”
KC Johnson: Portis: “I mean, I don’t want to keep talking about me and Niko. We’re just playing our games, playing off each other and just trying to play within Fred’s offense. Our second unit has been clicking real well. It’s been fun.”
“I’m not angry at anyone,” Mirotic said. “I’m doing fine with myself. My family is great. There’s nothing to be angry about now. It’s all over. It’s a new beginning.”
“All he has talked about is the team,” Hoiberg said. “He wanted to be out there for them in practice. He wanted to be on the bench during the game supporting them. And then once he is ready to play again, he talked about doing whatever it takes to get us going and get the team a win.”
The mid-October altercation with teammate Bobby Portis not only sidelined Nikola Mirotic for the first six weeks of the season with a concussion and facial injury but will cost the forward $1 million in potential bonus money. Each of the four statistical benchmarks valued at $250K apiece applied only if Mirotic appeared in 65 games or more. Mirotic has already missed 20 games.
Mike McGraw: Hoiberg said Portis and Mirotic did play against each other at times during Monday’s practice. All was well, apparently. #Bulls
Mike McGraw: Hoiberg said the feeling is Niko & Portis will have to communicate on the court sometimes and hopefully that will carry over to off the court. #Bulls
KC Johnson: Robin Lopez on Niko-Bobby not affecting team: “It’s a very difficult situation, obviously. I didn’t pick up on any awkwardness. I think guys are coming in there focused on basketball. They’re focused on helping the team out as much as possible.”
Robin Lopez says he has spoken to Niko Mirotic and knows that his teammate wants “to be back with the guys,” but Mirotic and Portis have yet to speak. Lopez says he has not been asked to facilitate a conversation between the two of them. “I’ve talked to Niko a few times,” Lopez said before Tuesday’s practice. “I went out to dinner with him and Cris [Felicio], but I’m not going to divulge anything about [those conversations]. He told me that stuff in confidence.”
KC Johnson: Pax: “Both Niko and Bobby are on our roster right now. And Niko’s getting cleared to do more and more. This obviously is coming to a position where it’s going to have to be resolved between the two.” Reminder: Mirotic can’t be traded until Jan. 15.
KC Johnson: Isn’t it weird that Portis and Mirotic are in gym together and not talking? Pax: “They are adults. This is our workplace. They’re both part of the team. I think it’s pretty simple.” Translated: Bulls have been accommodating but both players under contract. They need to meet soon.
KC Johnson: Bulls initially said Mirotic would miss 4-6 weeks. Tomorrow is 4 weeks. Pax: “The timeline for him getting back is all how he’s feeling and recovering from what he went through. He obviously has to get his conditioning up to a level that he needs to. That’s all a process.”
Vincent Goodwill: Nikola Mirotic is in the building. John Paxson said Niko hasn’t had contact with Bobby Portis, won’t say if the trade request has been rescinded
KC Johnson: Bulls exec VP John Paxson said Mirotic still hasn’t had contact with Portis.
KC Johnson: Bobby Portis said he won’t try to approach Mirotic. “I’m a high character, low maintenance guy. If he approaches me, I’ll welcome him with open arms.”
According to several players, the ultimatum issued by Nikola Mirotic — either Bobby Portis goes or he goes — carries no weight. If anything, it has solidified Portis’ standing with his teammates. One Bull even said, “This is Niko’s problem now.’’
Portis tried to reach out to Mirotic via text and in a message but received no response. That’s why players say it’s obvious that Mirotic, 26, has to go. The feeling is Portis has done his part to repair things, and he’s seen as someone who has put in all the work this summer and is a better teammate. Plus, he’s just more liked by his teammates. Choosing Mirotic over Portis would disrupt a chemistry that has been building since the front office made the decision to rebuild by trading Jimmy Butler in June.
Darnell Mayberry: Portis on Mirotic’s reported ultimatum: “I’m here to play basketball. I can’t control who goes. He goes, I go, I can’t control that.” #Bulls
Darnell Mayberry: Portis on Mirotic: “I want to rekindle our relationship, try as best as possible, but I don’t control that right now.” #Bulls #BullsNation
Nick Friedell: Bobby Portis says he still hasn’t spoken to Niko Mirotic.
Meanwhile, though he is free of his concussion symptoms, Nikola Mirotic remains weeks away from returning from the two facial fractures that Bobby Portis caused with a punch to the face during an Oct. 17 altercation between the forwards in practice. Mirotic remains upset enough over the disparity in time of absences that he has had little contact with teammates, and his camp has made clear to management that, for now, it doesn’t see a way the two forwards can coexist.
Bobby Portis is back! Well, soon perhaps. And his teammates are excited. “One hundred percent welcome,” said Justin Holiday. “Bobby’s important to this team; just as well as Niko is. We’re excited. Those are our brothers and when they come back we’re excited to have them back and help this team; with them we are better. Of course, we are excited about Bobby coming back; he knows that. I think he’s going to be ready to come in and play.
“That’s exciting,” Robin Lopez said about Portis’ return. “We’ve been playing with such great energy and Bobby is the epitome of that. I think he’s handled it as well as he could have. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with the rotations going forward, but I know he’s mentally prepared for that; and we’re excited to have him back.”
Hoiberg says Mirotic hasn’t done any on court work, but was able to do some rehab work in the pool recently. Hoiberg says Mirotic is in good spirits — it remains to be seen when he will work out with all his teammates again.
Mirotic has yet to change his stance on not wanting to play with Bobby Portis after Portis punched him in the face during an Oct. 17 practice altercation. That gave Mirotic a concussion, two facial fractures and a recovery period of up to two months.
Hoiberg wouldn’t answer whether he thinks, based on his conversations with Mirotic that included a phone call Friday, that he’s still upset with Portis. “It’s something we’re going to take it day-by-day,” Hoiberg said. “Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to see him (Saturday) and go from there. I know he’s going to continue to come in and get his treatment.”
It’s been described by one source as “one of them has to go” and the Bulls are aware of the tenuous situation. Mirotic agreed to a two-year contract with the Bulls on the eve of training camp, with the second year being a team option.
Throughout last season and a free agency that lasted all summer, Nikola Mirotic always maintained his desire to remain with the Bulls. That same stance has again been communicated by Mirotic’s camp to management even after Bobby Portis’ punch broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion last week.
But there’s a growing sense that Mirotic would find returning to a locker room with Portis difficult. In an odd way, the severity of Mirotic’s injuries could help assuage the delicate and fluid situation merely by the passage of time. Emotions remain raw for now.
Andre Iguodala: “Provided Bobby Portis doesn’t get to him”… and changes channel...
Nick Friedell: Noteworthy that Hoiberg and players all seem unsure if Portis/Mirotic can coexist moving forward. Nobody has clear cut answer after fight.
KC Johnson: Hoiberg is talking to both Mirotic and Portis but isn’t trying to be bridge. Said they have to work it out on their own. Will support both.
KC Johnson: Portis:”I’m wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko. I feel I let my fans, the Bulls organization and my teammates down”
KC Johnson: Portis: “I want to make sure me and Niko are cool. I’m pretty sure we can move past this.”
KC Johnson: Portis on Niko talk: “It hasn’t been arranged but I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. And I’m pretty sure we can get past it.”
Vincent Goodwill: Portis: “Yes I can co-exist with Niko.” Said he called Mirotic, sent texts, no response
KC Johnson: Bobby Portis apologized. Said he has texted Mirotic but got no response. Wouldn’t get into whether Mirotic was an aggressor.
KC Johnson: As of now, Bobby Portis is scheduled to address reporters pregame.
KC Johnson: Pau Gasol on former teammates’ Mirotic-Portis fight: “Both guys are competitive. Both guys want minutes. But that’s not the way to do it.”
Darnell Mayberry: Bobby Portis practiced today, as expected. But he will not speak to media today. He’s expected to address the media in the coming days.
KC Johnson: Justin Holiday: Bobby came in, worked hard like he always does. I reached out to Niko too. Make sure he knows he’s supported.
Fred Hoiberg says he has texted with Niko Mirotic. He says Mirotic is still sore after sustaining injuries in fight with Portis. It remains unclear when Mirotic will be able to return to practice.
Vincent Goodwill: Paxson: I wouldn’t call it a sucker punch, no
Bobby Marks: The team suspension of Bobby Portis Jr. has different ramifications with regards to the Bulls roster. Portis Jr. will be moved from the active/inactive list to the suspended list after the Bulls third game, October 24 at Cleveland. A suspension by the NBA would have resulted in Portis Jr. remaining on the active/inactive list for 5 games and moving to suspended list after the Oklahoma City game on October 28. The Bulls can sign a player while Portis Jr. is on the suspended list.
KC Johnson: Bulls suspend Portis 8 games.
KC Johnson: Bulls say Portis can practice during suspension.
Josh Lewenberg: Dwane Casey on player fights when he was an assistant in Seattle… So, Gary Payton and…? “We had some doozies in Seattle, I’ll tell you what, some fisticuffs. One that started on the court and went in the weight room and went outside, come back in. It was a long one. I’ve seen those. The good thing about that, the people that were involved in that were able to come back together and bond back together, which is the hard part. You can’t let what happened yesterday come into tomorrow or next week or next month or hold it inside. That’s the trick and luckily in Seattle we had some of those but guys were able to get back together and maintain the team chemistry.”
KC Johnson: Bulls say exec VP John Paxson will address reporters, then Fred Hoiberg & Robin Lopez. Portis not at practice facility. Suspension imminent.
KC Johnson: But internal view is incident involved blame on both sides. Situation escalated over several possessions during scrimmage. 2/2
KC Johnson: As reported yesterday, Portis will be suspended after Bulls conclude standard policy of communication with league office. What factor this plays in suspension is unknown & obviously can’t throw punch. But Portis widely regarded for work ethic, commitment to team.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Chicago’s Bobby Portis has call set with NBA in New York today to discuss punch thrown at teammate Nikola Mirotic, league sources tell ESPN.
Peter Vecsey: Contrary to counterfeit reports by ESPN and Yahoo, Bobby Portis did not “cheap shot” Nikola Mirotic at Bulls’ practice this afternoon, a source attests. Nonetheless, there is no denying it was a damaging one-punch knockdown. The Montenegro forward was taken to the hospital with a concussion and facial fractures that will require surgery, and is out indefinitely. Mirotic initiated the skirmish. “He was the aggressor, not Portis,” I am informed. “Mirotic shoved Portis twice, maybe three times. When Portis retaliated with a hard shove, Mirotic charged him. Portis put him down.”
A source who spoke to Mirotic after he was released from the hospital said the forward suffered two fractures and placed an early estimate for his absence at “a few weeks, at least.” He possibly will have to wear a mask upon that return.
In their statement, the Bulls said they are “evaluating disciplinary action.” But a source said the team is merely following protocol for all such incidents by communicating with the league office and that Portis will be suspended for multiple games.
According to several witnesses, tensions heightened between Portis and Mirotic during a competitive scrimmage. Several words were exchanged over trips up and down the court. Some shoving escalated matters and Mirotic once moved in Portis’ direction. And then Portis landed the lone punch, which placed Mirotic on the ground for several minutes before his hospital trip.
Vincent Goodwill: Mirotic does have a concussion and broken bones in his face. Expect Bobby Portis’ suspension to be significant
Mike McGraw: #Bulls confirm Portis-Mirotic altercation at today’s practice; said Mirotic suffered concussion and maxillary fractures, out indefinitely.
Jeff Zillgitt: Re: Mirotic-Portis altercation, it was two guys fighting for position that turned into altercation, I’m told.
Vincent Goodwill: This has been three years in the making, a source said. Mirotic has broken bones in his face, apparently instigated, and Portis punched him
Darnell Mayberry: Mirotic is out indefinitely…Bulls are evaluating disciplinary action. Suspension for Ports likely. Hearing league office is now involved.
KC Johnson: Mirotic is home after going to hospital. He has 2 broken bones in his face and was evaluated for concussion, per source. Punched by Portis.
KC Johnson: Early estimate on Mirotic absence: “A few weeks,” source said.
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June 25, 2018 | 5:21 am EDT Update
The Cleveland Cavaliers will add power forward Billy Preston to their summer league roster, sources told ESPN. Preston, who is 6-foot-10, was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American in 2017. Known for his athleticism and scoring talent, he committed to Kansas and was once projected as high as a mid-second-round NBA draft pick by ESPN.
Illawarra Hawks recruit Emmett Naar will be heading to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, linking up with the Phoenix Suns for the off-season showcase. Naar will team up with the #1 pick from the 2018 draft, Deandre Ayton, as the Suns open up their Summer League campaign against the Dallas Mavericks on July 6, followed by games against Sacramento and Orlando.