Nikola Mirotic impressive in Bulls' camp debut

Nikola Mirotic impressive in Bulls' camp debut
With Rose and most likely Gasol gone, Niko is the Bulls' 2nd-leading returning scorer from last season

Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls “rookie” who is far from your average NBA rookie, is turning heads early in training camp, according to the Bulls’ (with all due respect to newcomer Pau Gasol) “Big Three” – Tom Thibodeau, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past three years, the name Nikola Mirotic has become synonymous with “mixed attitudes” since he was drafted by the Bulls in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft.

Bulls fans have described him with comparisons ranging from Dirk Nowitzki to Darko Milicic.

Some believe he will barely play season, while some expect the Bulls to trade Taj Gibson to clear playing time for the 23-year-old who has been All-Euroleague and ACB (Spanish League) Most Valuable Player over the last two seasons.

His first time on the Bulls’ practice floor seems to have impressed the most important people in the Bulls’ organization.

Quoted by ESPN Chicago, Thibs, Noah and Rose all had glowing reviews for their new stretch 4:

“I thought he had a really good first day,” Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s practice. “And then after watching the film it was even better than I thought.”

“The thing that I really like about his game is he knows when to shoot and he knows when to pass,” Thibodeau said. “So he doesn’t force things. When he’s open, he shoots. (If) you’re closing at him hard, he’ll put it on the floor. He’s guarded well, he’ll make the play. So usually when a guy plays like that the team will function well.”

“He’s pretty good,” said Noah, before adding a little more praise. “He’s really good. He adds a different dimension to the game and he’s a lot more than just a shooter. He’s a great shooter and he’s done a lot of things that are pretty surprising. You don’t think of stretch fours as guys who can block shots and run the floor and he’s a hell of a player. He’s pretty complete. I think he’s definitely one of our secret weapons.”

“He’s going to surprise people by the way that he puts the ball down,” Rose said. “Like if you fly at him he’s really able to attack the rim and avoid charges. We saw it (Tuesday) he did a couple of moves where it was supposed to be a charge but he pumped his way around the opponent and scored the ball. We already knew he could shoot, but he’s good.”

Mirotic, who relocated from Madrid to Chicago in August with his wife and 4-month-old son, was just as effusive in his praise for his new coach:

“He’s a great coach,” Mirotic said of Thibodeau. “He tries to do the best for you. If you can, he’ll push you all the time. This is something very good and he knows very good what you can do, what you can’t do. So you try to do the best for team, to using the best things you can do. I’m happy with him. I’m working hard to make him happy with me. So (I’m) excited.”

“I know Chicago the last couple of years have been a good defensive team in the NBA,” Mirotic said. “So I’m going to try to do my best job to work every day hard. I know that I’m not a very, very good defensive player, but I need to learn. I need to work. Every day I learn something new on defense. So I just need time. They help me every day. So I think I can get better. I’m growing every day.”

Bulls fans, coaches and front office staff will get their first chance to see Nikola Mirotic in game action Monday, October 6, when they host the Washington Wizards in their 2014-15 preseason opener. They play at Detroit the next night in a game that will be broadcast live on NBA TV. Game time is 7:30 CT.

Four of the Bulls’ eight preseason games will be televised life by NBA TV. Their full 30-game schedule of preseason games can be found here.

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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