BULLS’ SILENT PART­NER

Mirotic is present but still not talk­ing to Por­tis; Dunn will make first start tonight vs. Thun­der

Chicago Sun-Times - - BULLSBEAT - JOE COW­LEY Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ sun­times_ hoops. Email: jcow­ley@suntimes.com

The Bulls will have lineup changes when they visit the Thun­der on Wed­nes­day. What they won’t have is what they want most: the end of the Nikola Mirotic-Bobby Por­tis drama.

Mirotic was back at the Ad­vo­cate Cen­ter on Tues­day while his team­mates took the court, and he still wanted noth­ing to do with Por­tis.

“Ob­vi­ously, Niko and Bobby have not talked,” coach Fred Hoiberg said of the drawn- out drama. “Bobby talked about that [ Mon­day]. Niko has had in­ter­ac­tion with other play­ers, and we’ll con­tinue to work on it. Niko will con­tinue to come in here and get his work in. Con­tinue to ramp up his work­load and hope­fully be cleared for more on- court ac­tiv­ity soon. To this point, no, there’s been no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Bobby and Niko.’’

Vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions John Pax­son said Mon­day that Mirotic has been asked to be around his team­mates more of­ten in the hope that his pres­ence would sim­mer the cold war.

In­stead, every­one else is hav­ing to an­swer ques­tions about Por­tis send­ing Mirotic to the hos­pi­tal with two bro­ken bones in his face and a con­cus­sion af­ter punch­ing him in a prac­tice al­ter­ca­tion Oct. 17.

“I’m try­ing to be,” Robin Lopez said when asked if it has been tough to be a team leader through this or­deal. “It’s a bit of a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, some­thing I haven’t dealt with be­fore. Both of those guys aremy guys. I have both their best in­ter­est at heart. I’m go­ing to do what I can to help both of them. But also, I’ve got to help the team. We’ve got to play bas­ket­ball.”

Lopez was asked if he would be will­ing to or­ches­trate the meet­ing be­tween the two.

“No­body’s ap­proached me to do any­thing like that,” he said, clearly tired of the line of ques­tion­ing. “I’ve talked to both of them in­di­vid­u­ally, just as a friend, just as an open ear.

“You’re speak­ing in hy­po­thet­i­cals. I don’t know, that’s hard for me to say.”

Hoiberg had enough when he was asked about be­ing part of teams with play­ers who couldn’t stand talk­ing to each other.

“Guys, I’m gonna get our team ready to play a bas­ket­ball game,” he said, all but end­ing the me­dia ses­sion.

The Bulls’ op­po­nent fig­ures to add to their frus­tra­tion. The Thun­der won the first meet­ing 101- 69 on Oct. 28.

The Bulls won’t have Justin Hol­i­day, who stayed be­hind af­ter the birth of his first child Mon­day night. That means Hoiberg will give Kris Dunn his first start as a Bull, with Je­rian Grant slid­ing to the two- guard spot.

Lauri Markka­nen ( left an­kle) prac­ticed and is ex­pected to start, but there could be a change at the three, with Den­zel Valen­tine get­ting a long look to start over Paul Zipser.

Lopez re­mains the only con­stant, start­ing in the mid­dle. He also re­mains the voice of rea­son in the Por­tis- Mirotic drama.

“It’s a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, ob­vi­ously,” Lopez said. “I didn’t pick up on any awk­ward­ness [ with both in the fa­cil­ity at the same time]. I think guys are com­ing in there fo­cused on bas­ket­ball. They’re fo­cused on help­ing the team out as much as pos­si­ble.”

Bobby Por­tis

Nikola Mirotic

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