The Chicago Bulls have been trying to figure out ways to bounce back to their spot behind the Cleveland Cavaliers as the strongest contenders in the Eastern Conference. Trailing behind DeMar DeRozan's Toronto Raptors in third place, the Derrick Rose team try to juggle adapting to a new head coach and the avalanche of injuries besetting them this NBA season.
The latest player to get sidelined due to injury is promising star Nikola Mirotic. Diagnosed with acute appendicitis, the forward is expected to return late in February - possibly after the NBA All-Star Break. This places a huge obstacle in the path of the Chicago Bulls as the NBA team lost yet another big man earlier in the season: Joakim Noah.
With both Mirotic and Noah out, the pressure for Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson to carry the team gets even heavier. Moreover, the Chicago Bulls appear to have been blindsided by Mirotic's absence. Given the trade rumors surrounding the team, it was earlier speculated that Noah will be dispensable since Mirotic can perform the center's functions effectively.
His latest injury combined with his inconsistent performance cause Chicago Bulls fans to mull over a possible trade for Mirotic. While he had been a promising rookie, it looks like the Spanish star is no longer living up to his potential.
"I have to find a way that I can play maybe 10 games good [in a row]," shared Mirotic in an interview with NBA.com. He added, "I try to do something everyday good. Sometimes I have really good feelings before the game. What I should do when I warm up. But after the game [starts], it's different. I know the first minutes of the game are really important for me. But sometimes when I'm missing those shots, I'm changing my game.That can't happen. I have to stay focused, you know."
Mirotic went on to state, "If I did this in my rookie season, of course I can do it again. But I don't want to make any more pressure on my head. I need a little more to enjoy the game. Sometimes I'm a little hard on myself, but that's just normal. You know you can do things better."
Meanwhile, Gasol is reportedly planning to opt out of his contract with the Chicago Bulls. The former Los Angeles Lakers star is said to be considering his options in the free agency market. Contrary to the widespread speculation, however, the Chicago Bulls are rumored to be aiming to re-sign Gasol. This is a far cry from the rumors that the NBA team is planning a huge deal involving the star.
"As for Pau Gasol, latest signals out of Chicago are that the Bulls want to RE-SIGN the free agent-to-be as opposed to trading him," revealed Marc Stein of ESPN.
Gasol has yet to comment on the latest turn of events regarding his contract with the Chicago Bulls. While he is mum with the issue, experts feel that re-signing him would not be a good move for the Jimmy Butler squad. Pointing out the cap space taken up by Gasol's contract, The Hungarian Jordan of SB Nation shared that it would be impractical for the Chicago Bulls to hold on to the star.
"Signing Pau is going to cripple the team in terms of signing any other average starter-quality player. Unless the Bulls trade off salary, they are going to be limited to minor tinkering in free agency," the SB Nation reporter shared.
What do you think? Should the Chicago Bulls re-sign Pau Gasol? What about Joakim Noah? Should the Frenchman return? Or is Nikola Mirotic capable enough to cover these bases?