Nikola Mirotic paid a $3 million buyout so he could come to the NBA this season to play for the Bulls. He should either ask for a trade, or ask Tom Thibodeau to reimburse his expenses. Thibs is wasting away his rookie season, when he should be the runaway leader right now for Rookie of the Year.
(Ironically, as I typed that last sentence, ESPN’s Mark Jackson stated that if Mirotic were on most any other team in the NBA, he’d be leading the race for Rookie of the Year).
Taj Gibson’s ankle injury finally forced Thibs to play Niko big minutes Friday night in Portland, and he did what I have been telling you he could do for what, two years now?
Nikola Mirotic was the only Bull to show up tonight
In what came as a surprise to absolutely nobody who really knows how to scout basketball talent, when Nikola Mirotic gets 35 minutes, Nikola Mirotic scores.
In 35:07 of playing time, by far the most he’s gotten in his 13 game NBA career, Niko was the only Bull who could score tonight. He posted career-highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds. He hit 7/14 from the field overall, 4/7 from behind the arc, and 6/8 from the free throw line. That’s a .703 True Shooting Percentage, folks.
He also had two assists, though he should have had 3 or 4 more if any of his teammates could have hit wide-open shots. The box score credits him with 3 turnovers, but he really only had one. He drove the lane and was stripped, and maybe he got fouled but anyone can live with that no-call. It happens.
But he got called for a pair of “traveling” violations on pump-fake drives from the 3-point line that were two of the worst calls you’ll ever see in an NBA game. Not only were they not NBA traveling calls, they weren’t even HIGH SCHOOL traveling violations.
He pump faked and went left, never coming close to moving his left (pivot) foot, but got called for walking both times. At least after the second one, he got onto the official, putting up two fingers for the two horrible calls he got.
But Nikola Mirotic has a sense of humor – the next time down he didn’t bother with the pump fake, drilling a 3 instead. He looked right at the official with the “fuck you American referee, you screw me on good pump fakes, I won’t bother this time” after making the shot.
I will post videos of these plays soon, I happened to be DVR’ing the game for some reason. I guess I subconsciously knew that there was a reason to record a game I was watching live.
There’s not much more to say about tonight’s game, but I have a few thoughts:
The Joe Average fan who can’t see what Hinrich brings to the team saw it tonight in full living color. The same Gasol-less (and Rose-less) starting lineup that beat the Clippers and played the Kings tough had no clue on offense with Aaron Brooks running the show. That’s what a PG like Hinrich brings to the team, and while I don’t expect Joe Average fan to understand most of the time, tonight was a great example of what happens when you don’t have a decent PG running the offense.
Thibs continues to screw over rookies – in a game that was lost, why the hell did Nazr Mohammed get 20 minutes and Cameron Bairstow 2???
Even Tony Snell was fairly effective in his 31 minutes, hitting 3/4 shots from the field and finishing with 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals on the night. He’s still nothing more than an 8th or 9th man at this point, but if the Bulls had a coach who gave a shit about actually developing rookies, who knows where Tony might be right now?
I have to point out again that Thibs refused to play Butler during his first two seasons until Deng and Belinelli were both injured near the end of year 2, and look how good he actually is? Where would he be if he had gotten minutes that went to some scrub veteran during his first 1 3/4 seasons?
In closing, nobody expected the Bulls to win tonight without Gasol and Hinrich. But this was just another strike against Thibs, who has to be running out of excuses for why he keeps playing Taj Gibson ahead of Nikola Mirotic. And why Nikola Mirotic isn’t getting a few of Noah’s minutes.
NBA players aren’t stupid, and they will tune out a coach who keeps talented players on the bench.
Stay tuned, the NBA world is starting to notice what a special talent Nikola Mirotic is. Will Thibs figure it out before he loses his team?
Time will tell.