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Teammates Side With Face Puncher

Remember when Chicago Bull Bobby Portis caved in the face of Chicago Bull Nik Mirotic during a practice fight before the start of the season? And then remember when, for some reason, Bulls officials thought that meant that the two guys couldn’t co-exist? And that Mirotic appeared to be wanted to be traded?

Well, that story hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s found a new level. First, Portis made his season debut on Tuesday night and he came up with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists in 24 minutes off the bench. Just him returning to the court after his suspension was going to bring the story back to light and then when he comes back and plays at that level, it gets even spicier.

Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg said, “His teammates were happy to have him back.”

That’s a significant statement and it may be a significant understatement. Because the real revelation of the week is that apparently Nik’s trade threat is just fine with the rest of the Bulls locker room. The Chicago Sun-Times reports: According to several players, the ultimatum issued by Nikola Mirotic — either Bobby Portis goes or he goes — carries no weight. If anything, it has solidified Portis’ standing with his teammates. One Bull even said, “This is Niko’s problem now.”

So they’re siding with the face-puncher over the face-punchee. That has to suck. You get your face shattered, you miss the start of the season, you say it’s either him or me, and your teammates say we’ll go with the guy who shattered your face. Nik had to be thinking that since he got punched, he’s got leverage in this and his teammates are saying, nope, not exactly. They’re all but saying he got what he deserved; he got what he had coming to him; if Portis hadn’t done it, I probably would have done it myself.

And I’m sure you’re tempted to say, well, the dude who did the face punching just had 21 and 13 in his debut on Tuesday, that’s why they’re siding with him. That basketball is about results and that if you drop a double-double with nearly a point per minute, you can punch anybody you want. First off, that’s not true and secondly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

It seems like it runs a lot deeper than a surprisingly good season debut because the Sun-Times also reported that “To a man, the players agree that Portis’ actions were wrong. No Bull disputes that. But there’s a lingering sense that Mirotic came into training camp with a feeling of entitlement, which did not sit well with many of his younger teammates.”

And that Portis tried to reach out to Mirotic via text and in a message but received no response. That’s why players say it’s obvious that Mirotic, 26, has to go. The feeling is Portis has done his part to repair things, and he’s seen as someone who has put in all the work this summer and is a better teammate. Plus, he’s just more liked by his teammates.”

I’m not there, I don’t know what it’s like in the locker room or on the practice court, but how terrible must Nik be as a teammate if someone punches him in the face and guys side with the dude who did the punching? And not a blind loyalty at that. They seem to be saying, yes, punching guys in the face is wrong, but we still like that guy over you. Hearing that from your teammates has to feel like another punch in the face. And a kick in the junk.