Bulls seem to be having fun with the "Niko is back " theme
The Chicago Bulls' unexpected four-game winning streak has taken on a theme.
They started winning when Nikola Mirotic returned from injury, so he must be the reason. During a postgame interview on the United Center videoboard after beating Boston on Monday, Mirotic told fans, "All I can say is Niko is back."
The Bulls seem to be having fun with Mirotic's declaration. After Wednesday's win over Utah, Kris Dunn did the postgame interview and used the "Niko is back" line with a smile.
"It kind of reminds me of Jimmy from Seinfeld, talking about himself in the third person," coach Fred Hoiberg joked Thursday at the United Center. "But, yeah, I love guys that have that inner confidence."
Dunn met with reporters before Thursday's practice and was asked about Mirotic taking credit for the winning streak.
"We understand it's not one player who makes what we do happen," Dunn said. "We're glad to have him back. He's glad to be back. He's showing great positive energy with the team in practice and in games and off the court. He's doing an unbelievable job, being a leader on and off the court with all of us."
OK, but is Dunn sure Mirotic knows it's not all about one person? For the record, after the Utah game Mirotic said Dunn was his guy.
"We know his personality, we accept it," Dunn said. "We don't get caught up in all of that."
Portis-Mirotic tandem shines:
One of the Bulls' best lineups during the streak has been Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis playing together.
The Bulls had a good defensive stretch late in the third quarter against Utah, which helped turn the game around, with both players on the floor. During the winning streak, Mirotic and Portis have combined to hit 17 of 31 shots from 3-point range.
This trend seems a little odd, considering the Oct. 17 practice altercation that left Mirotic with facial fractures and Portis suspended for eight games.
"We're all grown men; we all understand the situation, what happened," Kris Dunn said. "You've just got to get past it. I think they're doing an unbelievable job with it. They understand how to be professional.
"I think the team is helping them, keeping that positive energy between the two, and they're doing a good job. I think it's big props to them. They're not letting it affect the team, so I think it's unbelievable what they're doing."
Bulls save bus ride:
Coach Fred Hoiberg restored an old tradition by scheduling the Bulls to ride a bus up to Milwaukee on the day of the game Friday.
The Bulls used to do it that way, but former coach Tom Thibodeau liked to go up the night before and treat it like a typical road game.
"We felt like getting the guys in the routine we've been in, staying in their own beds, getting up early and having a good shootaround here before we leave," Hoiberg said. "Then we'll head up and get day rooms for the guys to get their pregame nap and pregame meal and then head over there and play the game.
"It's really an hour, 20-minute bus ride up there, so that was the decision."