Jul 18, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau (left), new player Nikola Mirotic (middle) and general manager Gar Forman pose for a photo after a press conference at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls Rumors: Mirotic...4th Wheel...Thank God!

Welcome back Pippen Peoples to another episode of Chicago Bulls rumors. As always I’m your host Ronald Agers, Editor of Pippen Ain’t Easy, your best choice for Chicago Bulls rumors, news, previews and reviews.

Chicago Bulls rumor number 34,243 concerns the much hyped big man from overseas that every Bulls fan will be eager to see if it is legit.

His name? Nikola Mirotic.

The Bulls acquired the rights to Mirotic way back in 2011 and stashed him overseas. Since then Mirotic has  become the so-called “Best player in Europe”. Now finally the Bulls got him into a uniform inking him to a three-year $17 million dollar contract. With all this hype surrounding this guy, you would think he would be a shoo-in for major minutes right?

Oh grow up!

There is no way that Tom Thibodeau is going to allow a rookie to get time over these established NBA frontcourt players. Let’s check the resumes shall we?

1) Pau Gasol, a two-time world champion, and the Bulls first choice after Carmelo Anthony said no thanks to the Bulls.

2) Taj Gibson, who was a major contributor to the Bulls success last season. He probably would be starting if Gasol wasn’t signed. Watching Gibson play with Joakim Noah last year was an instructional clinic on how to anchor a defense at the four and five positions. Plus he is a trusted favorite of Head Coach Tom Thibodeau.

3) Joakim Noah, who happens to be the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The heart and soul of the team. When Derrick Rose was out with injury, the team became his as he is the locker room leader.

Need any more convincing? Let’s check out what Nate Duncan from Basketball insiders has to say on the subject…

That is somewhat close to my thoughts, but he will probably be the 4th wheel in the big man rotation. I think he’ll be a better player than Anderson, but maybe slightly worse on the defensive boards. I only see him playing 15 min/game though, although he could get more time if there are injuries which there probably will be to Chicago’s top 3 big men.

The Anderson that Duncan is talking about is Ryan Anderson the stretch four power forward for the New Orleans Pelicans. If he is correct in his comparison, the Bulls have done the right thing bringing him along slowly. There’s no reason to throw this kid out in the ocean with no boat when it’s not necessary.

Nikola Mirotic has a lot of things to deal with coming over to the states from Europe. He is in a new culture, playing the best players in the world all the while dealing with Tom Thibodeau’s grueling physical demands on players.

How about dealing with teammates? Look how would you feel if you were on the Bulls roster with a skid row veteran’s minimum contract after being in the league for a while and a guy is getting paid $17 million for the future? How would you feel dealing with a player that has been hyped for years that could be the next Nikoloz Tskitishvilli?

Well at least Mirotic doesn’t have to come to Chicago under the same circumstances as Toni Kukoc who came in 20 years ago.

Remember when Toni Kukoc was supposed to be greatest thing since sliced bread to Jerry Krause? He was brought along the same way back then as Mirotic is now. The only difference was the tactic Jerry Krause used to do it.

By publicly wooing Kukoc with all the hype, Krause just fueled the anger of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen who were winning NBA titles at the time.

Boy they took that anger out on Kukoc during the 1992 Olympics. I remember watching that game. Jordan and Pippen basically made Kukoc look like a 98 pound weakling playing with grown men out there. This was not a Dream Team thing here. This was personal.

Check out some comments from the two greatest from the from NBA TV’s Dream Team documentary that will sum it all up…

Michael Jordan

“Krause was recruiting this guy saying how great he was and that’s like a father who has all of his kids now he sees another kid that he loves more than his own. So we were not playing against Toni Kukoc, we were playing against Jerry Krause in a Croatian uniform.”

Oh boy, that’s not a good thing when the greatest player in the world gets focused on you and not 18 holes of golf.

How about Scottie Pippen take…

“We knew the world was going to be watching. We knew everyone wanted to see what Toni Kukoc was like and we was going to give him the worst experience he had ever had on a basketball court.”

“We wanted to go guard him on the bench.”

I think they guarded the man to the bus parking lot. Toni Kukoc went 1-10 with two points in that initial game facing his future teammates while Croatia got schooled by 38 points. Luckily the Bulls learned from this experience.

Chicago Bulls Vice President of Operations John Paxson was a teammate of Toni Kukoc and made sure that he avoids the same mistakes that Jerry Krause made decades earlier.

“I thought at the time that it  was unfair to Toni to be built up in a way that initially he could not live up to expectations.” Paxson said. “We talked a lot about bringing Nikola over and not building him up, that he was going to have to develop and earn his place as a player.”

Which is definitely a good thing. Why put all of this pressure to perform early when he can learn and be mentored by a Pau Gasol who can translate in Spanish things that are going on to make the transition process easier. Life in the NBA will be difficult for Mirotic, but the Bulls have a plan to put him in a place to succeed.

As for Toni Kukoc, the Bulls eventually did the same for him too. They won three titles with him didn’t they?

As always, keep it locked to Pippen Ain’t Easy, your best choice for Bulls news, previews and reviews. We’re the ones to come to for realistic in-depth analysis on what is going on with the Chicago Bulls. Like us on Facebook: Pippen Ain’t Easy and follow us on Twitter: @BullBeatBlog.

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Tags: Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah Michael Jordan Nikola Mirotic Pau Gasol Scottie Pippen Taj Gibson Toni Kukoc

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