It’s rare that you hear about teammates publicly feuding in today’s NBA. Teams and players do a great job of keeping beef between teammates in house and off of Instagram posts.
But the beef between Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic became so enormous after the two young forwards got in a scuffle that left Mirotic with a fractured face and a concussion and Portis with an eight-game suspension.
There’s no way both of these guys are going to be on the same team by the end of the season.
But how did we get here? Things like this don’t often happen, and when they do they almost never get out. This one did, though, and we’ll recount exactly how things have played out up until today.
Oct. 17: Portis and Mirotic get into scuffle at practice
The Bulls’ season was a failure before it could even begin and this was that failure manifesting itself. Mirotic and Portis were trash-talking each other before and throughout practice.
Then it happened, per a report from ESPN.
The players had been talking trash to one another in practice, going back and forth before those exchanges escalated into a physical encounter, league sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Mirotic charged at Portis twice before Portis threw a punch and connected with Mirotic's face, league sources said. Mirotic dropped to the floor and lay there for several minutes before getting up, league sources said.
Mirotic was left with a fractured face and a concussion. He had to be hospitalized thereafter and was announced out indefinitely shortly after arriving.
Oct. 21: Portis is suspended, but does apologize for his actions
Though the incident was driven by the actions of both players, there was no way Portis wasn’t going to face any consequences for severely injuring Mirotic even if things were two-sided.
Bulls exec VP John Paxson: Both players owned responsibility. But only one player threw punch. It’s inexcusable.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 18, 2017
Three days after the suspension was announced, Portis apologized to Mirotic, the organization, his teammates and Bulls fans for his actions.
Bobby Portis addresses his suspension pic.twitter.com/DFr547ITIY— Sean Highkin (@highkin) October 21, 2017
“I’m wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko. I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is,” he said.
Oct. 26: Mirotic says it’s either him or Portis
Mirotic doesn’t believe he and Portis can coexist on the same team, according to a report from NBC Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. And, according to Goodwill’s report, Mirotic won’t mind if it’s him that has to go.
“It’s been described by one source as ‘one of them has to go,’” Goodwill reported, “and the Bulls are aware of the tenuous situation.”
There is a snag, however. Mirotic can’t be traded until mid-January this season because he just signed a two-year deal with the Bulls this summer prior to the start of training camp. Mirotic’s deal has a no-trade clause that can be waived if he’s willing to waive it, but if the Bulls don’t find the right trade partner things could get difficult.
Nov. 8: Portis and Mirotic still aren’t speaking
After Portis’ season debut against the Raptors where he dropped 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, he talked to reporters and was asked about his return and his relationship with Mirotic.
Portis revealed that the two still haven’t spoken despite his apology, according to a report from ESPN. Portis said he just “let bygones be bygones” with the situation and is trying to put it behind him and only worry about his play. Everyone is still awaiting a decision on any potential trades from management.
But there’s a twist here.
Nov. 8: ‘At least two’ Bulls players say they prefer Portis over Mirotic
After all that has been said and done from both sides, it seems that the Bulls’ locker room prefers Portis remain in the fold over Mirotic, according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times.
“This is Niko’s problem now,” one player told the Sun-Times when asked about the situation. The Bulls players see what Portis did as wrong, but they’ve also seen that he’s tried to make amends with Mirotic despite his efforts being rebuffed.
Along with his initial apology, the report said, Portis has reached out to Mirotic via text and in a phone message but never received a response. The only thing Mirotic has done so far is demand that one of the two be traded, according to reports.
Nov. 13: Paxson says the two have to work things out
Mirotic returned to practice on Nov. 13 and the organization insisted he remain about his teammates, including Portis, to bridge any rifts there may be between the two sides, according to a report from the Chicago Sun Times.
Despite returning to practice, however, Mirotic still isn’t speaking with Portis. According to the report, Mirotic still remains committed to his trade demand and is willing to waive his no-trade clause come January. But Paxson still wants the two to work it out.
“As I said last week, [Mirotic is] still under contract. Both him and Bobby are. We’re trying to find a way to integrate Niko back in,” Paxson said. “But that’s going to take some time. He’s not ready to do any basketball activities yet other than he’s done some light shooting and that type of thing.He’s working on his conditioning. So this a process we’re still trying to work through. But as you can tell, he’s in the building and around the team now.”
So, it looks like for the foreseeable future, the two forwards will have to make things work until the team settles on a solution.
As a young, upstart team this isn’t something the Bulls want to worry about down the line, so it’s best to just put this to bed now.
We’ll keep you up to date with whatever decisions come down the line for the Bulls, Portis and Mirotic.