Passing of trade deadline may be good for Mirotic

This probably goes without saying, but Nikola Mirotic felt relieved that he wasn't traded away from the Bulls this week.

He left a good situation with Real Madrid to play for the Bulls three years ago and this is the only home in the U.S. his family has known.

"There are some things you cannot control, especially those things," Mirotic said Friday. "I was trying to stay away a little bit. I was enjoying time off with my family (during the all-star break). If you start reading, if you start hearing there are a lot of rumors, I knew that I was a part of that.

"But I said to myself, 'Niko, whatever happens happens. You just need to work on yourself, enjoy the basketball.' But I'm very happy where I am right now. This is the team I love and the team I want to play for."

If Mirotic wants to extend his Bulls' career beyond this season, he needs a strong finish. So far, the passing of the trade deadline seemed to be a good motivator.

In the two games this weekend, Mirotic matched his season-high with 20 points against Phoenix. He recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds at Cleveland on Saturday. He went 6-for-12 from 3-point range in the two contests.

After Friday's win over the Suns, Mirotic was asked if he was able to play with more confidence knowing he wouldn't be traded.

"It's not easy for me to talk because those guys have been great guys, Taj (Gibson) and (Doug) McDermott, great teammates," he said. "It's never nice when someone leaves from the team. It's always good playing more minutes tonight.

"But for me, the most important thing at the end of the day is that we won the game. It's very important for us to keep winning. I think we're moving in a very good direction."

Mirotic will be a restricted free agent this summer. There wasn't much interest in him at the trade deadline, so it's logical to think no team is going to break the bank with an offer sheet. If he plays well the rest of the way, the Bulls might be consider extending the experiment. Mirotic has shown in the past two games he can help the Bulls win when he's locked in.

After the game in Cleveland, Dwyane Wade talked about how a calm settles in for some guys when the trade deadline passes.

"You're not going nowhere this year and you can just go out and play," Wade said, according to "I think Niko put a lot of pressure on himself to make every shot he shoots. He's taking shots that we want him to and he's doing a great job at the other end of the floor, rebounding, doing what he does."

The Bulls are the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA, but in the past two games, made 27 of 56 shots from behind the arc (48 percent).

If the Bulls can somehow continue their long-range excellence, they might be able to extend their win streak to a season-high five games on Tuesday against Denver.

"I think we just found our groove," Wade said. "We were playing good basketball. Unfortunately, Jimmy (Butler) had the heel problem. Golden State game I got sick, but we've been playing good basketball."

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