The Bulls are on a hot streak, and Nikola Mirotic knows why.
Following Chicago’s win over the Knicks on Wednesday, the Bulls forward credited his resolution with teammate Bobby Portis after a preseason altercation as the reason for the team’s success.
“I think it was huge,” Mirotic told ESPN. “I think it was huge because people didn’t know how we were going to act because it was a tough moment obviously for all of us, especially for me. But I think [up to now] we’ve handled it well. We’ve tried to be professional. That was really important for the guys because we kind of tried to stick together.
“And being back was a great [thing] for me, for my teammates. Right now we are all looking forward for Zach [LaVine] to be back, and we could be complete again. I think we’re going to be in really good shape.”
Mirotic and Portis got into a fight during practice on Oct. 17, which resulted in Mirotic being diagnosed with a concussion, broken jaw and facial fracture after being punched. Portis suffered no injuries but was suspended eight games.
Since Mirotic made his season debut on Dec. 8, however, the Bulls have won nine of their past 11 games. Mirotic is averaging career highs of 18.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this season, while Portis is averaging career highs of 12.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
“We feel proud of ourselves because coming from the difficult stretch we had before and now being capable to win nine [out of] 11, it’s huge for us,” Mirotic said. “We are not the worst team everybody was talking [about]. Everybody kind of felt like, people were wishing us to be the worst team, I don’t know the reason, but we knew that our time would come. We were practicing very hard.
“I was injured for 23 games, but now we are back, and you can see people excited again about us. The guys are having a lot of fun. You can see the bench yelling all the time, jumping, and it’s been fun playing so far now, but there is a lot of room where we can improve as a team. I think we are doing so far so good now.”
While Mirotic has accepted an apology from Portis and the two are playing well together on the court, they are still not on speaking terms off the floor.