Real Madrid's Montenegrin forward Nikola Mirotic (C) fights for the ball with Barcelona's Slovenian forward Bostjan Nachbar (L) and Barcelona's forward Alex Abrines during their Euroleague semifinal match Barcelona vs Real Madrid on May 16, 2014 at the Mediolanum Forum in Assago. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Updated: August 20, 2014 6:14AM
Urban myth around the Berto Center is that Tom Thibodeau doesn’t like to play rookies. Maybe it’s more an assumption that seems to jibe with his demanding coaching style that requires that rookies catch on quick.
Examine his history, though, and he has shown a willingness to play young players — namely Tony Snell and Omer Asik.
That bodes well for Nikola Mirotic who will play with the Bulls after coming here from Real Madrid. The Bulls drafted him in the first round of the 2011 draft and have allowed him to develop overseas.
Mirotic and Asik share a similar pedigree, having played professionally in big games overseas. Thibodeau admitted that heading into training camp he didn’t anticipate playing Asik as a rookie, but was convinced otherwise.
Thibodeau reserves any judgment on Mirotic until after he sees him in training camp, but acknowledged that Mirotic’s experience is different than other rookies.
“That he has played professionally in a lot of big games, it was one of the things that I thought really helped Omer make the transition. I think it will be beneficial to Nikola as well,” Thibodeau said.
Though the international game differs somewhat from the way it’s played in the NBA, Mirotic brings one ready-made skill to the Bulls: shooting.
Thibodeau said one of the organization’s big initiatives was to add shooting to their roster. They did so by drafting Doug McDermott and signing Mirotic.
At 6-10, Mirotic can play the stretch-four position that the Bulls have lacked under Thibodeau, which is a commodity the coach says most teams around the league have on their roster.
The biggest transition for Mirotic could come on defense, guarding other stretch-fours. Just a shade over 200 pounds, he will need to bulk up to defend in the post.
That shouldn’t be a problem for a player Thibodeau says has improved in each of his professional seasons overseas.
“What coach wants, how to use me, I will adapt,” Mirotic said. “I want to do the best to help the team and I know that I have a lot of things to improve, especially my physical [stature]. I am young, but I know that I can do it. I just need time to prepare.”