Sam: Del Negro Disputes he was Aggressor

Sam: Del Negro Disputes he was Aggressor

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
6:30 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Prior to tonights season finale against the Bobcats, Bulls head coach spoke about yesterdays revelations regarding an alleged physical altercation with team executive vice president John Paxson in Del Negros United Center office after the teams win over Phoenix on March 30th in Chicago.

All those things will handle themselves at the end of the year, said Del Negro.

Del Negro was also asked about todays ESPN report that cited a source who alleged he was the aggressor in the incident, contrary to the original Yahoo! version of the situation.

Thats inaccurate. Thats 100 percent false, said Del Negro. This thing is funny just because you have guys that care, guys that are competitive and its unfortunate that it had to come out.

The most important thing is to focus on the game tonight, the playersthe effort that theyre putting in and all those things will take care of themselves at the end of the season, he continued. Hopefully thats not for a while.

When asked about the allegation in the ESPN report that he was also involved in a similar altercation with Bulls general manager Gar Forman, Del Negro told CSNChicago.com, All that stuff is internal. It will be dealt with at the end of the season. Right now, the focus is the team and the game and working through that.

Forman, who is in attendance at tonights game in Charlotte, declined comment to CSNChicago.com, but did a release a statement to the media.

The Chicago Bulls are focusing all of our energies into the remainder of this season and, as such, were disappointed at the recent stories that may have distracted from that.

Reports of a recent internal disagreement between a Bulls executive and the Bulls head coach were the result of each expressing their passion about the health and well being of their players and the desire to win basketball games, read Formans statement, in part. The event occurred in Coach Del Negro's office, not in the locker room and not in front of the players, as some wrongly have reported. This disagreement, while not communicated well by either party in the heat of the moment and in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss, was a result of conflicting views, but all based on the fine balance required to ensure both the immediate and long-term success of the team and the health of its players.

The Bulls have a full and complete understanding of what took place, but, as requested by all parties, will address the attendant issues with the participants after the season is over. At this point, everyone intends to keep focused on the remaining games.

Regarding tonights game, Del Negro doesnt expect his players to have any letdown, whether from playing on consecutive nights or the distraction of the teams ongoing saga.

Guys are going to be a little fatigued so our bench is going to have to give us some minutes and play well for us, said Del Negro. The players have done an unbelievable job in terms of their focus.

Their effort last night was fantastic and were going to need a very similar effort tonight, he continued. I dont care whos playing or whatever, youre going to have to play well here to win.

We have to try to find a way to get our energy up and our emotions up, but the guys have done a good job of that lately.

Bobcats head coach is expected to play his regulars tonight, although the Bobcats dont have a chance to rise or fall higher or lower than their predetermined seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Thats up to Larry. He knows his team better than anybody, said Del Negro. I think it really all depends on your situation. There have been cases where guys have played and didnt need to play and got hurt and missed the playoffs.

Fans are coming to watch the players so you want to perform well all the time, but I think you also need to be smart about it.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."