By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Now 81 days into the free agency period, if you can even call it that anymore, Bulls restricted free agent power forward Nikola Mirotic still remains unsigned.
Whether the sides reach a multi-year deal before training camp opens with media day Monday and then practice Tuesday remains unclear. Chicago’s qualifying offer of about $7.2 million has and will remain on the table, and Mirotic can choose to play on that and become an unrestricted free agent in summer 2018 if the parties can’t reach a deal.
General manager Gar Forman continues to negotiate with Mirotic’s camp.
“No update with Niko,” executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said Tuesday. “Gar continues to talk to his representatives, and the qualifying offer is still out there, but no.”
Mirotic has been a regular presence around the Bulls’ practice facility this summer, but if he’s to practice with them next week, he’ll need to either ink the qualifying offer or a multi-year deal.
The Bulls want Mirotic back but remain uncertain of how this will play out. They just know that they hold the leverage because so few teams have cap space and franchises were reluctant to extend lucrative offers this summer after many bad contracts were handed out in July 2016 when the salary cap spiked due to a lucrative new television deal.
Mirotic, 26, averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 41.3 percent last season. On multiple occasions, he has expressed his desire to remain in Chicago.
“My mind is that I don’t want to prove the rest of the teams anything,” Mirotic said after a game in March. “I don’t have to prove nothing. I just want to prove those guys who trusted me, the Chicago Bulls. They waited for me, they gave me a chance. I’ve been a first-round pick, 2011. I want to play well here.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.