When Fred Hoiberg benched Nikola Mirotic for the first time in Mirotic’s three-year NBA career, the Bulls coach didn’t know how long it would last.
“It was really by feel,” Hoiberg said.
And he downplays that he did so to light a fire under the then-slumping Mirotic.
“I just felt we needed a change,” Hoiberg said of the two-game trial pairing Bobby Portis with Cristiano Felicio.
Whatever the case, the benching worked. After those two idle games, Mirotic had five straight in which he scored in double figures off the bench before Wednesday night’s 101-99 victory over the Nets in which he had seven points. And he has contributed at both ends of the floor.
Hoiberg has praised Mirotic’s handling of the decision, pointing to his impressive performance at a back-to-training-camp-type, lengthy practice on Dec. 18. That convinced Hoiberg to reinsert Mirotic into the rotation.
“It was very hard for me to accept it, but I’ve always been professional,” Mirotic said. “I respect everyone here, the coaches, the players. I said to myself, ‘Niko, do what you have to do.’ The only thing I can do is keep working.
“Of course I need to be more consistent. That’s what I’m trying (to do). It has been a few games (that) it has been better.
“I’m trying to play simple basketball — that’s my game. But I’m not happy with this right now. I need to keep building.”
Talk it over: Hoiberg said he spoke to Rajon Rondo about the decision not to play the 10-year veteran in the fourth quarter of Monday’s victory over the Pacers.
“He understands and is ready to go,” Hoiberg said.
Rondo left the locker room Monday night in good spirits, congratulating teammates.
“The big thing that I’ve always tried to do is go with the group that is giving us success,” Hoiberg said of his closing rotation. “It’s just based on the guys we feel give us the best chance on that night. Some nights will be different than others.”
Indeed, Hoiberg said he hasn’t yet settled on a closing rotation.
Layups: The Bulls had a pregame walk-through at the United Center rather than a morning shootaround at the Advocate Center. … The NBA fined Paul George $15,000 and Pacers coach Nate McMillan $10,000 for criticizing the officiating after Monday’s loss to the Bulls. … The victory over the Pacers marked the 153rd time Dwyane Wade has posted at least 20 points and two blocks. Over the last 30 years, only Michael Jordan (199) has had more among guards.