Niko Mirotic wants out. Or he wants Bobby Portis off the Bulls before he comes back.
Niko is currently recovering from injuries he sustained when Portis punched him during practice a couple weeks ago. Mirotic needs to get clear of a concussion before surgeons can repair two broken bones in his face. After the surgery, it could be another 4-6 weeks of recovery before he can play basketball again.
In the past, Mirotic has often expressed his love for Chicago, and his families desire to stay here. This makes the news that he is willing to waive his no-trade clause in order to avoid Portis all the more sad. I like when people genuinely love this city just like I do. I hate to think of someone being forced to leave Chicago because of an unbearable experience. Because Niko signed a new contract this summer, he will not be eligible to be traded until mid January of 2018 (it’s part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Yes, I know I sound like a hypocrite. I did say that the best case scenario this season was for Niko to waive his no-trade clause and the Bulls get a draft pick or two in return for him. I would like to point out, that was predicated on Niko playing good, consistent basketball, not on a teammate rearranging his face.
So the Bulls find themselves in a predicament. Do you keep Niko or Bobby?
I have a feeling the Bulls have already made their decision.
Portis is halfway through serving the 8 game suspension he received after clobbering Mirotic, but the suspension was not your typical “banned from all team activities” suspension. In an unusual move, Portis has been allowed to continue practicing with the team.
John Paxson and Fred Hoiberg in interviews the day after the incident, were both quick to point out that blame for the punch should be cast on both Portis and Mirotic. The details of what specifically led up to the punch have not been leaked, so we don’t know what was said or done to trigger Portis, but this is not the first time victim blaming has been practiced by the Chicago Bulls.
A notable example of this occurred during the 2013 playoffs. The Bulls medical staff botched a spinal tap on forward Luol Deng trying to determine whether or not he had meningitis. He was left in the hospital, violently ill, suffering from headaches and nausea while the team traveled to Brooklyn to play the Nets. When the media asked where Deng was at, the Bulls said he was suffering from flu like symptoms and migraines. Fans became angry with Deng. Why didn’t he try to play through the flu like MJ did? He was weak, a poor competitor.
The Bulls never tried to correct the story. They didn’t admit that their shoddy medical staff screwed up Luol Deng’s back and made him sick. He lost 15 pounds laying in that hospital bed and the Bulls let the public believe he was bailing on the team. By January of 2014 Deng had been traded to Cleveland and the Bulls had replaced him with Niko Mirotic.
One of the key talking points for Bulls management and coaches has been the culture that the team developed over the summer. Nobody played a bigger role in helping develop that culture than Bobby Portis. He was a leader this summer, something Bulls management and coaches have also been pointing out a lot. Bobby got the team together and led workouts. They ran drills together, they just plain ran together. Bobby Portis connected with his teammates. That’s the message we’ve been fed, that’s the message we’re meant to believe.
This week, the Bulls picked up the 2.5 million dollar option on Bobby Portis’s contract for next season. That means, unless they trade him, he will be on the team through next season. The Bulls could have exercised a standard NBA contract clause that would allow them to void Portis’s contract after he inflicted bodily harm against a fellow employee of the team. By picking up his option they essentially did the exact opposite.
Trading Portis is still a possibility for the Bulls. One team, at least, is rumored to have been asking about Bobby after the punching incident occurred. Niko might still get his wish, but the signs are weaving a different story.
Even while suspended the Bulls have allowed Bobby to continue practicing with the team. They have spun a narrative of Bobby as a leader. They extended his contract instead of voiding it. All the while they have left Mirotic out to dry, judging him to be just as guilty as the man who threw the punch. If Mirotic is just a guilty, his sentence-a concussion, a broken face, months of recovery, losing the starting power forward position, diminished basketball skills, the possibility of being traded out of the city he and his family love-does not seem to be equal to that of Bobby Portis-an 8 game suspension and a contract extension. ‘Nuff said.
Chicago Bulls Season Record: 1-3