Just before the NBA season tipped off, the unthinkable happened at a Chicago Bulls practice.
Teammates Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic engaged in a verbal argument that turned physical when Portis struck Mirotic in the face, breaking numerous bones and sending him to the hospital, where he was also diagnosed with a concussion.
Portis was suspended seven games for the incident, while Mirotic has been recovering and still might need to undergo surgery.
If and when he returns this season, it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to be anywhere near Portis.
According to multiple reports, Mirotic recently let the Chicago Bulls know that he wants to be traded if the team decides to keep Portis on the roster moving forward. Before the season, Mirotic signed a brand-new two-year, $27 million contract with Chicago that included a no-trade clause. But, he would reportedly be willing to waive that if Portis stays, per an ESPN report.
Trading Portis might not make sense for Chicago. On Friday, the team announced that they picked up the option on his rookie contract in advance of Tuesday’s deadline. Plus, he’s unlikely to hold much value given his performance on the court and his physical assault on Mirotic.
Portis will make $2.5 million next year, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Last season, he averaged 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.6 minutes over 64 games. Regardless, he will play at a major discount, given today's inflated free agent salaries.
Mirotic has a team option worth over $13 million next year if incentives are hit. Last season, he averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 24.0 minutes over 70 games. Therefore, shedding themselves of his salary might make the most sense and might be the most beneficial for Mirotic, who could start fresh elsewhere.
Four days after the incident, Portis publicly apologized for what he did.
“I’m wrong for what I did,” Portis said, via the Associated Press. “I want to publicly apologize to Niko. I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”
“Going forward, I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and that we can be teammates again. I’m pretty sure we can. We just have to repair the relationship,” he said.
Apparently Mirotic doesn’t have the same feelings.
We will see how the team responds in the near future. In their absence, rookie Lauri Markkanen has already established himself as a prime Rookie of the Year candidate due to an historic start.
Perhaps the Bulls will cut both Mirotic and Portis loose in an attempt to eliminate any more potential drama.