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updated: 11/13/2017 2:32 PM

Bulls take small step toward repairing Mirotic-Portis relationship

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  • Video: Portis on Mirotic's return

  • John Paxson, Chicago Bulls vice president of basketball operations, says it will take some time before Nikola Mirotic resumes full basketball activity. In the meantime, Mirotic needs to spend more time around his teammates, Paxson added.

      John Paxson, Chicago Bulls vice president of basketball operations, says it will take some time before Nikola Mirotic resumes full basketball activity. In the meantime, Mirotic needs to spend more time around his teammates, Paxson added.
    MIKE MCGRAW | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis says he hopes things can get back to normal when Nikola Mirotic returns to working out with the team.

      Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis says he hopes things can get back to normal when Nikola Mirotic returns to working out with the team.
    MIKE MCGRAW | Staff Photographer

 
 

Maybe, in an optimistic sort of way, one layer of awkwardness was pulled back from the Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic aftermath.

There's still a long way to go, however.

The breakthrough Monday was Mirotic was actually inside the Advocate Center as Portis and the Bulls got ready for practice. Mirotic could be seen sitting in the training room and then lifting weights.

Mirotic and Portis have not had any direct contact since the Oct. 17 practice altercation that sent Mirotic to the hospital with facial fractures and a concussion. Portis served an eight-game suspension, imposed by Bulls officials, for throwing the punch that caused the injuries.

It didn't seem likely Mirotic and Portis would talk it out Monday, but anything is possible.

"Nah, I'm just here to play basketball," Portis said when asked if he would try to approach his teammate. "I'm really not worried about the situation anymore. Just trying to have a good season for this basketball team. Trying to do everything I can for this basketball team."

Portis said he reached out via a call and text message after the altercation happened, but his messages were not returned. He's still open to mending fences, but will keep a respectful distance for now.

The third-year forward was asked how he'd react if Mirotic approached him Monday.

"I'd react normal. I'm a normal guy," Portis said. "I'm a guy that's a high-character guy, low-maintenance guy. I'd welcome him in with open arms.

"It's not awkward for me. I'm just out here trying to play ball. I've got my dream situation. I'm playing good ball, I want to continue doing that."

Before Portis spoke, Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson gave an update on the situation, and acknowledged it's still a work in progress. There has been speculation Mirotic's representatives have asked the Bulls to trade either him or Portis.

"I'm not going to really talk about anything that's been asked of us," Paxson. "The reality is that you just can't move a guy for the sake of moving him. We're going to have to do what's in our best interests first and foremost. That's how we're going about it day-to-day."

Because Mirotic signed a new contract just before the start of training camp, by rule, the Bulls cannot trade him until Jan. 15. Even then, it could be a challenge to find a team willing to take on Mirotic's $12.5-million salary. The second year of his deal is a team option.

Portis showed why the Bulls were reluctant to cut him loose by averaging 19.3 points and 10 rebounds in the first three games after his suspension.

"Both Niko and Bobby are on our roster," Paxson said. "And Niko's getting cleared to do more and more. This obviously is coming to a position where it's going to have to be resolved between the two.

"We're trying to find a way to integrate Niko back in. But that's going to take some time. He's not ready to do any basketball activities yet other than he's done some light shooting and that type of thing. He's working on his conditioning. So this a process we're still trying to work through. But as you can tell, he's in the building and around the team now."

Portis agreed it's a good sign that Mirotic is back in the building and around the team.

"Yeah it is," Portis said. "Always good to have him in the same building. Got to try to get things back to normal."

The Bulls are hoping some patience will lead to Mirotic warming to the idea of rejoining the team while Portis is still around. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

"We weren't going to be in a position to continuously accommodate those needs (of separating both players)," Paxson said. "We want him (Mirotic) to start coming around more. And it is on him to do that.

"They are adults. This is our workplace. They're both part of the team. I think it's pretty simple."

• Twitter @McGrawDHBulls

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