Why Nikola Mirotic is the Man of March (and some April, too)

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

There is a certain phenomenon that is late-season Nikola Mirotic. The hyped European import was supposed to be a lot of things for the Chicago Bulls at power forward. Most of the time, he has struggled to reach that. However, he turns into something else during the month of March, and sometimes April. I think I figured it out, and it might be obvious.

It occurred to me that there might be a very simple, obvious reason that Mirotic has played well in March and April. And it might spell good things for the future of both player and team.

Dirk Nowitzki. That’s the comparison I heard before Mirotic played his first minute in a Bulls jersey. I knew it was too good to be true, but I desperately wanted the Bulls to have that kind of impact player. If Niko could get anywhere near the legacy of a player like Dirk, Chicago just lucked into a transcendent, generational talent.

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The Bulls didn’t need it so much when he came up, they were still living in the decline of their previous era of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, still working through the bitter divorce that was looming with head coach Tom Thibodeau. Belief was still there, Chicago still had it in them. Of course, they didn’t.

Mirotic would struggle, he would thrill, but he hasn’t managed to put together a long-term run. Not under Thibodeau, and certainly not under Fred Hoiberg. He’s struggled with confidence, had freak health issues, and most recently had an abomination of a first 50-ish games to a season.

And now he’s back to his annual late season form. So what gives? Let’s have a look.