Rondo, Mirotic asked to help lead Bulls' playoff push

Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic will be asked to help lead the Bulls into the playoffs.

At least, that's the plan. It could change next week.

Whether Rondo and Mirotic can do anything in these final four weeks of the season to affect their future employment with the Bulls, that answer is probably not.

Rondo and Mirotic stepped into bigger roles Monday and were catalysts in the Bulls' 115-109 victory at Charlotte, which ended their five-game losing streak. The win left the Bulls a half-game behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the East with 15 games to play.

"This is what we signed up for and this is a preview of up ahead," Rondo said after the game, according to "Appreciate everyone counting us out; gave it a little more fight."

Rondo started for the first time since Dec. 30 and helped ignite the offense. He finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The Bulls scored 36 points in the first quarter at Charlotte, 10 more than they scored in the entire first half Sunday at Boston.

Mirotic had a team-high 24 points off the bench. He added 11 rebounds and hit 5 of 12 3-point shots after sitting out the previous three games by coach's decision.

"I think we enjoyed it a lot," Mirotic told reporters after the Charlotte game. "There's been a lot of times we didn't enjoy playing basketball, me either, and today it's one of those days we finally enjoy the game."

Both players are interesting cases. One reason the Bulls targeted Rondo last July is because they felt he would agree to a short-term deal. The Bulls can either pay Rondo $13.4 million next year or let him go for $3 million.

The Bulls acquired Cameron Payne from Oklahoma City on Feb. 23 thinking he might be the point guard of the future. It would make sense to pair him with a veteran next season, so keeping Rondo makes some sense. Coach Fred Hoiberg has praised Rondo's work with his younger teammates.

The question is would the Bulls forego the $10 million in cap room that would be available by declining the second year of Rondo's deal?

As it stands now, assuming Dwyane Wade comes back for another season, the Bulls would have roughly $30 million in cap space if they don't bring back Rondo or Isaiah Canaan, who can be bought out for $200,000, according to

In this scenario, the Bulls may not chase a star player in free-agency this summer, but would have the means to improve the supporting cast. The biggest downfall to this year's team was the heavy reliance on young, unproven players to surround Wade and Jimmy Butler.

Five of the young guys are under contract for next season at relatively low prices - Payne, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Jerian Grant and Paul Zipser. The Bulls surely would like to re-sign backup center Cristiano Felicio, who will be a restricted free agent.

Mirotic is also a restricted free agent this summer. He'll probably be available to re-sign at a reasonable price, but chances are the Bulls will try to refill the available roster spots with new faces.

Mirotic was an important part of the Bulls' retooling plan. But after three seasons featuring hints of promise and long lulls, they may consider Mirotic a failed experiment. They might have traded him last month if they could have.

Obviously, the Bulls thought they'd get many more of those court-spacing performance from Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Wade, for one, is pushing Mirotic to step forward while there's still time.

"Me and Jimmy talked to Niko before the game and told him we need him," Wade said, according to "We're not going to make the playoffs without him. We just want to let him know that we need his focus, we need his ability to shoot the ball on the floor, we need him to make shots."

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Hoiberg appreciates Houston's 3-point heavy style

Bulls still hoping for more than 3-point shots from Valentine

Getting tough to feel optimistic about Bulls' playoff chances

Rondo, Mirotic step forward to help Bulls end losing streak

Frustration grows after Bulls' rotten performance in Boston

Bulls scouting report

Bulls vs. Memphis Grizzlies at the United Center, 7 p.m. Wednesday

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WLS 890-AM

Outlook: If the Bulls are going to sweep the season series with Memphis, they'll have to find a new way to get it done. When the Bulls beat the Grizzlies 108-104 on Jan. 15, Doug McDermottt scored 31 points. Of course, he's since been traded to Oklahoma City. Like the Bulls, Memphis snapped a five-game skid on Monday. The Grizzlies beat Milwaukee at home 113-93 behind 24 points from 40-year-old Vince Carter. On the season, C Marc Gasol is the team's top scorer at 20.1 ppg, followed by PG Mike Conley (19.9) and veteran PF Zach Randolph (14.3). SF Chandler Parsons is likely out for the year with a knee injury. The Grizzlies have won three of their last four at the UC, but lost last season.

Next: Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center on Friday, 6 p.m.

- Mike McGraw

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