Third year Chicago Bulls Forward Bobby Portis will begin his third season in the NBA serving an eight-game suspension after hitting teammate Nikola Mirotic in the face at practice on Tuesday, the Bulls announced Wednesday.
The suspension begins with Thursday’s season opener at Toronto. Portis will still practice with the team during his suspension.
Mirotic is said to have suffered a concussion and what the team called “maxillary fractures.”
A team spokesman added, “surgery is likely required.”
League sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Mirotic initiated the skirmish. The source claimed that Mirotic shoved Portis twice, maybe three times. When Portis retaliated with a hard shove, Mirotic charged him which led to Portis throwing his punch.
“Both players owned up and took responsibility for the incident itself but only one player threw a punch,” executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said on Wednesday.
And that punch connected with devastating consequences for everybody involved, as Paxson said to the media.
“For us, that is inexcusable. It’s not who we are. It disappoints us. Bobby Portis is not a bad person. He’s a good kid. He’s a competitive kid. But in this instance, he made a mistake. And as we all know when you make mistakes, you have to suffer the consequences.”
When asked how much time Mirotic is expected to miss, Paxson said, “We’re anticipating four-to-six weeks. The concussion has to be resolved before the facial fracture can be taken care of. And that can take some time.”
Paxson confirmed that both players were aggressive leading up to the incident, to the point Assistant Coach Randy Brown was forced to intervene.
Robin Lopez said such competitive battles have transpired between the players before but said there was no excuse for what happened.
“We talked with Bobby,” Lopez said.
“Obviously he’s regretful about what he did. We talked about it as a team afterwards. Everything was still so fresh. We as a team feel there’s blame on both sides. When it comes down to it the punch was inexcusable.”
Portis’ punch, as Paxson also acknowledged, crossed the line.
“Our responsibility now is to be supportive of both Niko and Bobby. We’re a team. We’re a group. You have to proceed that way,” Paxson said. “These types of things do happen. I’ve been a part of them. I’ve seen them. It can happen. I used to get in these little scuffles with B.J. (Armstrong) when I played. But you can’t cross the line. And Bobby crossed the line. The result of the contact and what it’s done to Niko is really the thing that has a lot of us sitting here feeling really disappointed in this today.”
Coach Fred Hoiberg said rookie Lauri Markkanen would join the starting line-up in light of this incident.
“It’s certainly a little deflating but everything you guys have heard, people expressing how great this culture has been so far, this summer and into the fall, the majority of that is legitimately true,” Lopez said.
“It’s going to be not only on those two players to mend that confidence, to mend that trust between the two of them but on the teammates, upon us. Part of that good mojo we have right now is going to be huge in unifying the two.”
[Featured Image by Tony Gutierrez/AP Images]