Sources: Bulls 'will discuss' contract extension for Bobby Portis this summer


Sources: Bulls 'will discuss' contract extension for Bobby Portis this summer

The Bobby Portis story has evolved from the preseason, where he put the punch in punchline following his incident with Nikola Mirotic and many felt he shouldn’t have played another game in a Bulls uniform.

It’s a distant memory as he prepares for his first stint as a starter Monday against the Boston Celtics, where his play has done the talking and he’s used his emotion to help the Bulls develop an identity of competitiveness.

Those good graces may have the Bulls truly evaluating where Portis fits long-term, and it could work to the benefit of both sides as they could engage in contract extension talks this summer before Portis is scheduled to hit restricted free agency, if the two sides don't reach a deal this October.

A front office source tells NBCSportsChicago.com a deal for Portis “will be discussed” this summer, as Portis has had a breakout third season, averaging 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds. In the 11 games since the Bulls traded Mirotic to New Orleans, Portis’ tangible production has matched his efficiency, as he’s averaged 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 47 percent and 39 percent from 3-point range.

While Zach LaVine’s restricted free agency is more immediate and David Nwaba is a priority the Bulls will still have salary cap space beyond next season when Robin Lopez’ contract comes off the books, along with Omer Asik’s $3 million buyout of his $11.9 million deal.

Portis will make $2.49 million next season, so any contract extension won’t take hold until the 2019-20 season when the salary cap is expected to take another jump from $101 million this coming summer to $109 million.

Recent history says the Bulls let their restricted free agents go into the marketplace before getting a deal done—not to the point of getting offer sheets which would be a tricky proposition—but establishing value.

If the Bulls lock him up to a deal this summer, it could prevent Portis from becoming more costly down the line if he makes another jump in year four—with Jimmy Butler being the example, turning himself from a solid starter to an All-Star and max player in 2014-15.

It would go against Bulls precedent, as only Derrick Rose received a contract extension before going into restricted free agency, but Portis will be open to contract talks this summer, according to sources.

Portis’ improvement from his second year to third year has been noticeable, and if the Bulls didn’t know his leaguewide value his eight-game suspension after the altercation with Mirotic had to be an eye-opener.

Over 20 teams reached out to the Bulls with the thought to acquire him, sources told NBCSportsChicago.com in October when Mirotic issued his “Portis or me” ultimatum during his recovery from a concussion and facial injuries.

Portis’ play this season has done nothing to quell that desire, as his 3-point shooting has improved and he’s become a much better finisher at the rim, due to the work on his body.

“We've all seen the improvements of Bobby on the floor. but I think as important as anything he's really committed himself to the weight room with our strength coaches this summer,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “And he's really been dedicated to working on his body to make himself quicker, more athletic and stronger.”

Portis stayed in Chicago last summer in anticipation of a real opportunity after playing behind Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Mirotic his first two years. Now he stands his ground more times than not in the post on defense and has become an excellent communicator on the back line.

“For sure. It's kind of funny,” Portis said. “In training camp, it's always Taj who was stronger than me then and now playing against some other veterans around the league, bumping into them now, they be like, damn, strong ass dude. It's crazy to hear them say that. It's a blessing. It's always fun.”

He knows there’s more improvements to come with his body, as he just turned 23 last month and stands at 230 pounds.

“Try to be quicker on my feet, on the bounce, on offensive rebounds,” Portis said. “Going up stronger and quicker. Sometimes guys try to block my shot a little bit there. Try to stay consistent as I've done this year. Stay in the weight room, try to get bigger and stronger because you can always improve your body.”

His overall game and awareness has improved, hence his ability to play with Mirotic through their issues while also developing chemistry with rookie Lauri Markkanen. It’s no surprise the Bulls are looking to evaluate how he plays in large portions of time, because the two could see considerable time on the floor together next season, as a starter or reserve.

With the Bulls expected to entertain offers for Lopez around the draft, combined with Cristiano Felicio regressing in the first year of his contract, it wouldn’t be surprising to see two sides establish a true dialogue this summer—especially with the draft presenting myriad options for the Bulls, as they could look for a frontcourt player or swingman.

Even still, keeping a productive player who fits alongside Markkanen and has improved yearly seems to be prudent.

“He's able to back down on guys down in a league that's really gone to a lot of switching. He can punish the switch on the block,” Hoiberg said. “And the important thing is, with a big guy guarding him, he has the ability to stretch the floor where he's shown the improvement over his young course of his career to do that. So, we're really happy with Bobby, and I think he's really solidified himself as a big part of our future."

Jabari Parker has bounce and perseverance, but what's in the Chicago native's future?


Jabari Parker has bounce and perseverance, but what's in the Chicago native's future?

Jabari Parker still has bounce.

Either that or he’s gained it after two ACL surgeries that have stalled his once promising career, evidenced by his devastating drive down the middle of the Bulls defense for an unexpected dunk.

Or his flash on the break, finishing with a one-handed slam from Brandon Jennings in the second quarter.

But what does it mean for his future?

Parker played in his first game back in his hometown after returning from injury, his first start of the season came in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ franchise player.

In 30 minutes, he was three for 10 from the field for six points, four assists and three rebounds in his 20th game of the season as the Bucks held off the Bulls for a 118-105 win at the United Center. For the season, Parker is averaging 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes while shooting a career-high 51 percent in a contract year as restricted free agency is looming.

Outwardly the Bucks say they’ve been pleased with his play, but the rumors persist this marriage won’t last long.

“(He’s) very good, for someone who’s gone through that twice,” Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty said. “His demeanor, his approach, is very good. He’s worked extremely hard to get back in that position he’s in. Each night we ask a lot of him that we do of everybody else. Scoring is one thing. We need him to rebound. We know he can playmake. Defend. He can play inside, he can play outside. He’s a versatile player.”

Hard to remember, it was Parker who was supposed to be that guy for the Bucks when he was drafted second in 2014, as the argument going into that draft was about Parker or Andrew Wiggins as the best player.

The Chicagoan has had to endure stops and starts since his NBA career began, tearing his ACL 25 games into his rookie campaign. He returned to play 75 games the next season before appearing to blossom even more last year, averaging 20.1 points in the first 50 games.

Then he tore it again right before the All-Star break, halting the Bucks’ vision of having three versatile wings that could cause havoc in Antetokounmpo, Parker and Khris Middleton, an underrated star.

Not only that, it made for awkward contract negotiations as Parker was recovering from surgery before the October deadline and the Bucks reportedly offered a three-year deal around $18 million annually that Parker turned down in the expectation of getting a max deal.

With Antetokounmpo taking yet another step into superstardom, it’s difficult for the Bucks to commit financially that way, especially when Parker doesn’t seem like a natural fit next to Antetokounmpo.

Parker, like many others from his draft class including the Bulls’ Zach LaVine, face an uncertain future with restricted free agency this summer. At least in LaVine’s case, the Bulls have called him one of their building blocks after the Jimmy Butler trade.

For Parker, it’s been reported he was shopped around the trade deadline and nearly moved—which coincided with his season debut Feb. 2. As if he had enough to worry about in terms of getting his body in order and trying to prove where he fit within his own team’s hierarchy, the business of the NBA reared its ugly head.

For the Bucks, their No. 1 priority is Antetokounmpo, as it should be. Parker finding his way amongst the circumstances just made things murkier, just recently crossing the 30-minute threshold against the Clippers where he scored a season-high 20 points.

“With the minute restrictions it’s hard to play,” Prunty said. “Actually I think for him, we’ve struggled with scoring off our bench. He gives us scoring off our bench.”

Friday was only the second time this month where Parker didn’t score in double figures, so even if the future is on his mind, it’s not turning into selfish play—at least offensively.

You can see the missed rotations on defense and note how well the team plays when the ball moves from side to side—a common tacit note of criticism with players like Parker and Carmelo Anthony, guys who need the ball and space on the floor to score.

“Just trying to make it happen,” Parker said. “Coming off the bench, or I’m starting, just trying to do what I can.”

Middleton is a more natural fit next to Antetokounmpo, because of the economy of space he uses when he gets the ball. He rarely uses more than the space around his shadow and has found a way to be efficient around Antetokounmpo.

Parker is more naturally gifted, though, and at least while he’s in Milwaukee, finding ways to play within that simple construct is his best bet.

“This last stretch of games will be important going into the playoffs,” Jennings said. “Finding his rhythm. Me being out there with him, I’m trying to get him going, get him into a better rhythm and things like that. Make the game easier for him.”

Jennings is in his second stint with the Bucks and was in a similar position before his restricted free agency. He and the Bucks couldn’t come to terms, and he wound up being traded to Detroit in a package, which involved sending Middleton among others to Milwaukee.

He knows how thought of the future can play into someone’s mind, let alone the double task of returning from another serious injury.

“It shouldn’t. At my age now (28), I would say it shouldn’t,” Jennings said. “But I know at that age it did for me. From me to him, he gotta look at the big picture. We’re going to the playoffs. We have a chance to get out the first round. You can’t worry about that. That takes care of itself. Once you win, sky’s the limit.”

For his part, Parker and the Bucks are saying the right things, knowing the summer awaits where the true feelings for all will be shown and a future path will be decided.

“No, I don’t think it was. I don’t think it has. My play dictates (this summer),” Parker said. “I think I’ve been doing good so far. I don’t have anything to worry about.”

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.