Nikola Mirotic frustrated by removal from Bulls' rotation

BOSTON -- The Bulls' Nikola Mirotic has gone from a potential starter in training camp to being inactive in March.

According to the 26-year-old forward, Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg told him he would not be playing in the near future.

"He told me that I'm out of the rotation," said Mirotic, who hasn't played in two games and was inactive for Sunday's matchup with the Celtics. "That I need to stay ready, but he didn't give me any expectation that I would [or] when I can play. Just 'stay ready.'

"I know that I'm ready. I know I can help those guys. Of course I've been inconsistent, not just me, all the team up and down -- but to be in this kind of situation, out of the rotation, doesn't make sense for me."

When asked specifically what Hoiberg told him in regard to potentially getting back in the rotation, Mirotic said he didn't get a clear answer from the second-year coach.

"That's what I asked him," Mirotic said. "I asked him what I can do to be back? What can I do to be in the rotation? What I should do differently? And it looks like he wanted to give an opportunity, a chance to a young guy who is on the team, [Joffrey] Lauvergne. And I just need to be ready. He said maybe there will come a time when you have another chance. That's what I can do, work on myself, and wait."

It has been a precipitous fall for a player the Bulls' front office hoped would be a building block in the future after a draft deal in 2011 to secure his rights. After a strong March in his rookie season, Mirotic was thought to be one of the best young players in the league, but a combination of injuries and inconsistency has derailed his promising start in Chicago.

Mirotic, who is averaging 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game this season, acknowledges that it's difficult to stay positive and engaged given his current situation.

"It's a very good question," Mirotic said. "It is hard. It is very hard. There's not too many things I can do right now. It looks like it's not up to me. It's up to Coach. I've always been a good teammate, always [been] professional, so I'm going to stay in that way. Do my work and wait."

Still, Mirotic admits to being frustrated by his current role.

"It's been difficult for me to understand," Mirotic said. "To be in this situation."

Mirotic's name was mentioned in several potential trade rumors, but he ultimately stayed in Chicago after the deadline passed last month. He was averaging almost 25 minutes in the six games after the deadline, before being benched during a loss to the Orlando Magic on March 8.

"Playing from 30 minutes [27 minutes in a game against the Clippers on March 4] to being out [of the rotation] is tough to [understand]," Mirotic said. "But it's the coach's decision. I have to respect that."

Mirotic was asked if he wished the Bulls would have just moved him at the deadline. He paused several moments before saying, "No."

"I came to Chicago because I wanted to play here," Mirotic said. "They drafted me, they did everything they were supposed to do, they waited for me. And for me it was like another opportunity after the [deadline]. I really was focused, working hard on myself, being the first guy in the weight room, working some extra shots. Doing everything I was supposed to do to be ready. I was feeling much better on the floor, but they made the decision they've made. It's been hard."

Mirotic said he wasn't trying to focus on the future and has noted several times both he and his family enjoy Chicago. But he said he can see the writing on the wall and understands that his future very likely won't be with the Bulls, given that he is a free agent at the end of this season.

"This season's been hard," Mirotic said. "It's been very difficult for me to find a way to enjoy the game. There's a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is me, too [and my play]. I understand that, I assume that part. So I only hope right now we can win some games, we can have that option to be in the playoffs."