By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (670 The Score) — It’s perhaps fitting that in this odd Bulls season that featured a nearly unprecedented training camp fight between teammates and an abysmal 3-20 start followed by a hot streak, power forward Nikola Mirotic has found a supreme peace amid his tough circumstances and, to steal a favorite phrase of team management, outside noise.
Saturday was to bring the return of Mirotic to the Bulls rotation against the Pistons in the evening after he missed the past two games with a stomach virus. It also brought Mirotic another day closer to Monday, the first day he’s eligible to be traded per the structure of his contract.
Not that he would let on that he’s followed that storyline.
“Not really, what’s going on?” Mirotic responded when asked if he knows the significance that Monday brings.
Mirotic feigning ignorance aside, he may have just one game left in a Bulls uniform. As the team continues to keep the big picture in mind amid its rebuild and Mirotic’s camp hasn’t backed off its request that he wants a separation from Bobby Portis following the latter’s Oct. 17 punch, a trade of Mirotic seems more and more likely.
The Bulls, to date, have remained steadfast in their desire to acquire a first-round pick in a Mirotic trade. That’s become a more realistic possibility as Mirotic, 26, has played the best all-around basketball of his career, averaging 17.4 points and shooting 46.5 percent on 3-pointers.
The Bulls and Jazz have already had trade discussions surrounding Mirotic, and the Pistons have been connected to him too. It’s possible the Bulls could try to find a third team to bring into the deal as well. Mirotic holds a no-trade clause, but he loses that right if the Bulls exercise the team option for 2018-’19 on the second and final year of his deal, the Tribune has reported.
Mirotic said his agent hasn’t informed him of anything new on the trade front — not that he’d reveal it anyway.
“That’s something I’m not worried about,” Mirotic said of a possible trade. “I’m sure my name will come out but my only focus, my only goal is to win tonight. Tomorrow we can have a different conversation, but so far right now, it’s just get ready and focus for the game.”
On Thursday amid social media trade speculation, Mirotic tweeted that, “I’m in love with the Chicago media.” It was another example of the self-assured Mirotic trying to keep it light amid uncertainty surrounding his future. While he didn’t admit it on record, the likely reasoning was the publication of a story connecting him to the Jazz.
“I’m enjoying you guys being here, around,” Mirotic said of the media. “Sometimes I don’t read too much that you guys write, but sometimes when I’m bored a little bit, I’ll be like, ‘OK, let’s see what they’re writing.’ I’m just enjoying your articles, guys, and it’s been fun to me, so I said it was funny to me. I said that I’m in love with Chicago’s media.”
He may only have a handful of days left to express that love.
“My future is good so far,” Mirotic said. “I’m standing here now where I want to be now and playing after my injury, and I just want to have fun playing basketball. I’m not worried what’s going to happen. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen for everybody, me, Bulls. Sometimes you can’t control some things, but you can control being a professional and trying to do your best.”
So does Mirotic want to stay in Chicago?
“I want to win tonight,” he said. “That’s all I want to do. Like I said before, from tomorrow, we’ll see. But I’m happy in Chicago. I’m obviously very happy. And my family too, we all love Chicago. We’re more than thankful for the opportunity to be here. That’s all I can tell you now.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.