CHICAGO (CBS) — Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic won’t have surgery to repair facial fractures stemming from an Oct. 17 punch from teammate Bobby Portis, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson told WBBM Newsradio’s George Ofman. Instead, Mirotic and his representatives have chosen to let the fractures heal on their own.
Mirotic couldn’t undergo surgery right away because he suffered a concussion.
“He’s chosen not to have surgery,” Paxson said. “After a short period of time, those fractures start to heal. So if you don’t have the surgery right away, it’s best to let it heal on its own.”
Mirotic, 26, will return to the Advocate Center to partake in light activity Tuesday as the rest of the Bulls leave for a road trip. His workout is expected to consist mainly of riding a bike under supervision from a trainer.
“Just getting him moving again,” Paxson said. “That’s the biggest thing, is right now he’s got to get moving. He’s been walking by his place, but he’s got to get on a bike now. We have to monitor how he’s doing. It’s just an awful thing.”
The Bulls initially ruled Mirotic out for four to six weeks, but that timeline is in question.
“There’s going to be a protocol now for him getting back to doing anything,” Paxson said. “It starts with the movement. The better he feels, if he’s not having any symptoms, he can get on the court and then start running and all those types of things. But with the facial fractures, what still has to be determined is if he’s going to eventually play with a mask, those types of things. It’s going to be a process. We’re not expecting him to play any time soon. A lot of will be dictated with how he’s doing personally and with everything. This has been a tough experience for him. Like I mentioned, we’re going to err on the side of being understanding of him and his situation. We’ll deal with it day by day.”
Portis was suspended for eight games for his punch, which the Bulls admonished while also admitting Mirotic had an aggressor’s role in the altercation. Portis has served five of those games. While Portis has publicly apologized, Mirotic has had little communication with teammates and didn’t return Portis’ initial text and call. It’s not known if they’ve communicated since those initial efforts.
With the two out, rookie Lauri Markkanen has stepped into the starting power forward slot and been a bright spot for the Bulls.
“We’re not there yet,” Paxson said in response of whether Mirotic and Portis and co-exist again. “It’s definitely something we’re going to have to address. We’re on Niko’s timeline in a lot of ways, you know, because of what happened to him and I think rightfully so. Again, we know it’s going to be addressed at some point. He’s not there yet. We’re not there yet.
“Let’s be honest: It does change the team dynamic.”