Welcome Back, Nikola Mirotic: Back in the Rotation

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The big Chicago Bulls story from the weekend was the absolute piledriver delivered by the Milwaukee Bucks on consecutive nights. But, there were smaller stories worth noting, including Nikola Mirotic racking up two DNP-CDs – the first of his career.

The first DNP was clearly Fred Hoiberg’s way of making a point – a good point. This is only Mirotic’s third NBA, but already his worst shooting season. He has career-low marks in both field goal percentage, 38.7 percent, and 3-point percentage, 29.6 percent.

After missing out on the fun in Milwaukee on Thursday night, Mirotic missed the team’s pregame walk-through on Friday and again found himself riding the pine for their second consecutive loss to the Bucks, a game so out of hand that Hoiberg emptied out the bench early and even seldom seem players like Paul Zipser got run. Except for Mirotic. Two consecutive DNPs for the struggling forward.

On Monday night, with the Bulls already out to a big lead early, 25-13, the first Hoiberg substitutions were made and it was Doug McDermott and Mirotic getting the call. Welcome back, Mirotic. In the final 3:38 of the first quarter, Niko knocked down both shots he took and added a rebound and a block on the defensive end of the floor.

He continued the hot roll into the second quarter, shooting 2-for-4, all on 3-point attempts.

The second half was a bit more modest for the hot-starting forward, but he wasn’t quite done, knocking down one more 3 before he finished his night.

Mirotic missed two consecutive games because of his awful start to the season. He’s failed to thrive in Hoiberg’s system and that could be on the player or the coach, but probably at least a little bit on both. Niko might benefit from some coaching adjustments, but he’s also on the hook for his incredibly poor shooting percentages.

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Speaking of shooting percentages, Mirotic shot 50 percent for the game – both from the field and 3-point range. In his return, he played 21 minutes with 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks. If Mirotic can keep up this kind of performance, he’ll be a major factor in the fortunes of the Bulls season and can rest assured that his DNP-CD days are behind him.

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