By Dan Bernstein–
670TheScore.com senior columnist
(670 The Score) Nikola Mirotic wants to be anywhere but the Bulls anyway, so having him miss three games before the NBA trade deadline would seem to be the obviously correct call for all concerned.
He won’t play between now and the Feb. 8 deadline as the team works the phones to find a deal amenable to all parties. Mirotic has some leverage due to the rules surrounding his $12.5-million team option for next year, in that he can veto a trade unless that’s picked up — that was reported to be the sticking point in the arrangement with the Pelicans that fell through Tuesday, but the teams are said to still be talking.
There’s no upside to him playing at the moment, because he has already played his way back to the top range of his value in his return from the Bobby Portis incident. Mirotic is in his prime at 26 and putting up some of the best and most consistent numbers of his career, with no performances in the next week altering upward the perception of what he’s worth.
It’s only the downside of injury that lurks, potentially scuttling everything. There’s no good reason to take on that risk when you’re the Bulls looking at a chance to add a first-round draft pick or Mirotic looking to continue his career somewhere else.
It also makes the Bulls worse for the moment, and we have to remember that they need to get on with more losing to assure themselves of a meaningful spot in a draft that’s considered four or five deep in impact players. More outcomes like a 124-108 defeat in Portland on Wednesday night are a good thing, even as their young core develops.
It’s all a bit counter-intuitive, but the Bulls need to go backward to go forward, and Mirotic needs to sit idly to move on.