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Bulls' Nikola Mirotic looks to return Friday: 'I'm not angry at anyone'

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

With his season debut imminent, likely on Friday, Nikola Mirotic is all positive.

"I'm not angry at anyone," Mirotic said. "I'm doing fine with myself. My family is great. There's nothing to be angry about now. It's all over. It's a new beginning."

The first "it" refers, of course, to Mirotic missing his 23rd straight game Wednesday because Bobby Portis concussed him and broke two facial bones with a punch on Oct. 17. Both players have made clear they will remain professional on the court but haven't discussed the incident off it. They did exchange fist bumps on the bench again during Wednesday night's game with the Pacers as Mirotic dressed for the first time this season.

Like Portis, Mirotic is focused on playing. And coach Fred Hoiberg said if Mirotic navigates Thursday's practice and Friday's morning shootaround in Charlotte without any setbacks, the fourth-year forward will make his season debut against the Hornets on a minutes limit.

The minutes limit is why the Bulls aren't concerned about Mirotic likely starting with a back-to-back set of games. The Bulls play host to the Knicks on Saturday.

"I feel much better. Each day I'm doing extra work," said Mirotic, who stayed after the morning shootaround to get up extra shots. "I'm feeling better in my legs. My conditioning is better too. So we're getting very close.

"I'm very excited. I put all that work in during the summer without playing for the (Spanish) national team. It has been a long time since I played games. I played preseason but it's not the same competition. It's not going to be easy in the beginning. But I'm going to do my best and I'm sure my teammates will support me and hopefully the fans too."

 

Hoiberg is pleased with where Mirotic is mentally upon his return.

"All he has talked about is the team," Hoiberg said. "He wanted to be out there for them in practice. He wanted to be on the bench during the game supporting them. And then once he is ready to play again, he talked about doing whatever it takes to get us going and get the team a win."

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