Mirotic eats this up. When asked if he likes the fit in New Orleans, his face beams. “You can see my smile,” he says. In addition to being Davis’ running-mate in the frontcourt, Mirotic is also his tenant, as he rents his current residence from Davis. “He gave me a good price,” says Mirotic, who has a particular fondness for the large screening room.
More Rumors in this Storyline
Liz Mullen: BDA Sports has signed New Orleans Pelicans F Nikola Mirotic, who will be a UFA next summer. NBA agent Bill Duffy repping him. Formerly represented by Dynasty Sports.
Vincent Goodwill: The Bulls formally announce signing of Nikola Mirotic
KC Johnson: Gar: “We’re excited to get a deal done with Niko. We were encouraged he was in here all summer.”
Vincent Goodwill: The second year on Mirotic’s contract is a team option, according to sources
Nick Friedell: Can confirm @Shams Charania report. Bulls have agreed to two year deal with Niko Mirotic. 2nd yr is a team option, according to league source
Shams Charania: Restricted free agent Nikola Mirotic has agreed to a two-year, $27M deal to return to Chicago, league sources tell The Vertical.
Mirotic wants to stay with the Bulls. The Bulls want to keep Mirotic. Both sides have reiterated that on several occasions.
According to a source, the holdup is that the Bulls want the market to set the price on Mirotic, and then they will decide if they would match it. If that offer doesn’t come, well, then the organization can play a bit more hardball with the 26-year-old.
Rather than dwell on his immediate future – whether it’s with the Bulls or elsewhere, however – Mirotic is letting his representation deal with the business of basketball while he remains focused on the business of Niko. “I’ve never been more calm than now,’’ Mirotic told the Sun-Times in a phone interview. “I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because I’ve just decided to be really, really focused on myself and working hard through all of this. Like I said at the end of the season, my goal was to get really stronger this summer, add some pounds, and the last two months have been great as far as accomplishing that. I wanted to work on my body, add muscle, and do what I needed to get better. “The other stuff is going to take care of itself. I really believe that. Just worry about getting better.’’
Nick Friedell: Gar says he’s still optimistic about getting a deal done with Niko Mirotic.
The Bulls and Nikola Mirotic have found common ground — their desire to keep their three-year relationship going. That said, sources on both sides of the negotiations have described them as cordial and the gap to be bridged not that large. According to sources, Mirotic has drawn preliminary interest from at least two teams but has no visits scheduled.
Nick Friedell: Bulls are content waiting on Mirotic’s numbers to filter through league. Waiting to see how the market breaks for the 26 year old.
KC Johnson: John Paxson said the Bulls intend to re-sign Nikola Mirotic in restricted free agency.
As for Mirotic, he will be a restricted free agent this summer, but he is hopeful he’ll be able to return to the Bulls next season. “I’m going to wait till July,” Mirotic said. “But I can tell you my first option is Chicago.”
In a sense, Mirotic knows he’s left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he’s back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond. “I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls,” Mirotic said. “Whatever decision they make. It’s been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it’s a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don’t know. The years here have been great. I know it’s been up and down. It’s been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right.”
Mirotic said he wasn’t trying to focus on the future and has noted several times both he and his family enjoy Chicago. But he said he can see the writing on the wall and understands that his future very likely won’t be with the Bulls, given that he is a free agent at the end of this season. “This season’s been hard,” Mirotic said. “It’s been very difficult for me to find a way to enjoy the game. There’s a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is me, too [and my play]. I understand that, I assume that part. So I only hope right now we can win some games, we can have that option to be in the playoffs.”
Nick Friedell: He still hopes Bulls win+make playoffs but admits “This season’s been hard. It’s been very difficult for me to find a way to enjoy the game”
For two games, that rotation didn’t feature Nikola Mirotic. Paxson called on the third-year forward, whose contract is up after this season, to become more consistent. “Niko has a tendency to get down on himself to be honest with you,” Paxson said. “Sometimes as player, you have to say to yourself, ‘Enough is enough. I’m going to go out and compete and work on my game.’ A lot of this is on the individual. Niko is a great guy. He has the ability to get better.”
Recently, Nikola Mirotic and his wife decided they wanted to learn how to speak Greek. They picked this language mostly because it’s a difficult one to master. Never mind that Mirotic already speaks Serbian, Spanish and English. “I like challenges,” Mirotic said. That’s one of the main reasons Mirotic said he wants to stay in the NBA next season rather than return to the safety net of playing professionally in Europe when his three-year, $16.6 million deal expires after this season.
Management, which has called Mirotic part of its core, faces an intriguing decision regarding Mirotic next summer. For his part, Mirotic hopes to remain in Chicago. “I love the Bulls,” he said. “I love my teammates. I love the city. It’s the perfect place for me. The first idea is to re-sign.”
“Real Madrid is one of the best teams in Europe and in basketball,” Mirotic said of his former team. “I had a great time playing there, great memories. I won championships there. I know the fans want me back there. But my first idea is the NBA.”
Although Nikola Mirotic was selected in the first round in 2011, Chicago was able to find a loophole in the CBA and pay him more than his rookie salary slot. Mirotic, who played in Europe after being drafted, arrived in Chicago before the 2014-15 season. League rules stipulate that teams can sign a first-round pick with either cap space or a salary exception when a player is three years removed from being drafted. In Mirotic’s case, the Bulls were able to sign him to a three-year contract using cap space.
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The Detroit Pistons have expressed interest in trading for Damyean Dotson, according to a league source. Luke Kennard, the backup guard, has missed games due to injury but also has not found a fit in Dwane Casey’s system.
While New Orleans is trying to win enough to convince Davis to stay, the rest of the league is ruminating about what it would take to pry Davis away. Such speculation is happening constantly now, but executives around the league see virtually no chance that Davis is traded before the Pelicans can offer him that super-max extension in July. New Orleans, as it should, will do everything it can to keep Davis — and will move on from him only if it absolutely has to.
If that happens, the Pelicans will have only one logical option: to trade Davis before he leaves in free agency. The same process has played out with several others, including Leonard, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George. None of them, though, would inspire the kind of bidding war an available Davis would. “That’s what you guys do,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of the trade speculation. “You guys talk about it. He’s here. He’s playing on our team. We’re trying to win games. That’s the only thing that matters right now. “It’s not anything that I’m going to have a say-so in or anything else, so we don’t bother with it. We worry about now. We worry about winning games and putting everybody in the best position to win games.”
Interestingly, Jimmy Butler and Brown agreed in separate interviews Sunday that the Sixers’ offensive spacing is fine. Butler has flourished here since arriving Nov. 12, having scored 38 points in each of the past two outings. “I think the spacing is great,” Butler said. “I think we have a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket. We just have to pick and choose where we’re going to be at a certain time. As long as we keep sharing the ball the way that we share the ball and guarding, I’m telling you, we’re going to win.
As for Embiid, Butler can empathize with having to adjust on the fly. “I know where his heart is, man,” Butler said. “I can feel for him. It’s new for myself. It’s new to him. It’s new to everybody. But we’re O.K. I know he wants to win. “He’s frustrated. He wanted to play (Friday and) coach didn’t let him play. We need him. He’s been doing a lot on both ends of the floor for this team. As our best player, I can understand him being frustrated. We’ll figure out ways to make sure he’s successful.”
But here they are, still together. Perhaps it’s because of Wade’s nature. Those who know him well will tell you he takes after his grandmother, who helped raise him and was extremely giving, accepting and forgiving. To be James’ friend for any length of time, maybe it requires a person whom James respects, but also someone who is willing to deal with the challenges James’ personality brings with it. Wade is one of the greatest players in NBA history; James certainly respects that. And Wade has been willing to roll with James’ changing moods and desires over the years. If Wade has ever held any grudge, it has never been apparent.
And Lillard, 28, is something of a media chaos agent: He had the NBA watchers watching him this summer as he broke news of reporters changing jobs, reminding them — occasionally by force — that no one at this level is in the business of keeping secrets. “Nobody knew where I was getting my information from,” Lillard would recall, and the power and insider knowledge was at times intoxicating.