CHICAGO — Bobby Portis has been suspended eight games for punching 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 practice with the team during his suspension.
Mirotic suffered a concussion and what the team called “maxillary fractures.” The Bulls added “surgery is likely required.”
“Both players owned responsibility in 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. 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 long Mirotic would be out, 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 intervened at one point. Robin Lopez said such competitive battles have transpired between the players before.
But Portis’ punch obviously crossed a 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. Positionally, 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 start at power forward with Mirotic and Portis out.
“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 gonna 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 gonna be huge in unifying the two.”