(CBS) Nikola Mirotic was set to practice the Bulls on Monday for the first time since the incident in which he was punched by teammate Bobby Portis on Oct. 17.
Mirotic has missed the team’s first 18 games of the season recovering from a concussion and two facial fractures. Monday marked the first time Mirotic took the practice floor with his teammates, as he’d recently been at the facility while the team practiced but was primarily doing conditioning work off the floor.
What early Monday didn’t bring was a reconciliation between Mirotic and Portis, who still haven’t talked since their altercation, though they were set to share the court. Before practice, coach Fred Hoiberg called it a “very important step.”
Mirotic has made it clear to management that he doesn’t want to be Portis’ teammate moving forward, but the trade market for each is non-existent and the Bulls have said they’ll only move one if it’s beneficial for the team. Mirotic can’t be traded until Jan. 15. Portis was suspended eight games for his punch after the team made clear Mirotic also played an aggressor’s role.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Mirotic and Portis talked after practice.
“There will have to be some interaction at some point obviously now that they’re out there playing together,” Hoiberg said of Mirotic and Portis. “They’ll be on the same team and playing against each other. So it is important to get those guys communicating, which I think we’re all confident will happen. The important thing is getting Niko back on the floor and with the team. He’s been around doing his own thing as he’s been through the rehab process. Even when we were on the road, it sounds like he had a great week of workouts in the weight room and also on the floor, where he did more and more every day.”
Mirotic isn’t expected to be active when the Bulls host the Suns on Tuesday, as they have to see how he responds to contact. He’s scheduled to travel with the team for a game at Denver on Thursday.
“Getting him back out here is certainly a step in the right direction,” Hoiberg said. “And we’re all excited to have him back.”