Bulls

Ben Wallace's five best games in a Bulls uniform

benwallacebulls011616.png

Ben Wallace's five best games in a Bulls uniform

Expectations soared when reigning Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Bulls in July 2006.

The Bulls were coming off a .500 record in 2005-06, falling in six games to the eventual champion Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

But adding the 31-year-old Wallace was expected to inject life into a Bulls defense that young Tyson Chandler hadn't been able to; the Bulls then traded Chandler to the New Orleans Hornets for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith.

But Wallace never lived up to his billing after leaving Detroit, averaging 5.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in two seasons. The Bulls then dealt Wallace to the Cavaliers in a complex, 11-player deal at the 2007 trade deadline.

Wallace will have his number retired tonight in Detroit, where he spent nine seasons and was an instrumental part of the 2004 championship team and was named Defensive Player of the Year four times.

And while his time in Chicago was brief and rather insignificant - other than the headband debate - here are five of Wallace's best games in a Bulls uniform:

5. Dec. 1, 2007, vs. Charlotte: 10 points, 19 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 blocks, 41 minutes

One of Wallace's biggest box scores came in his second season with the Bulls. Wallace was the leading force on the glass as the Bulls out-rebounded the Bobcats a whopping 48-24. The Bulls had 19 offensive rebounds, with Wallace contributing eight of them that led to seven points. Wallace became the fourth player since 1985 to record at least 19 rebounds, five steals and four blocks, joining Hakeem Olajuwon (four times), Charles Barkley and Michael Cage. The Bulls won 111-95, with Ben Gordon's 34 points leading the way.

4. Apr. 29, 2007, at. Miami (playoffs): 13 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 7-8 FT, 36 minutes

It wasn't a monster line for Wallace, but rather a capping off of his stellar defensive work against Shaquille O'Neal in the Bulls' first round sweep. In Game 4, Wallace limited O'Neal to 16 points and seven rebounds; O'Neal averaged 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in the series but wasn't much of a factor, logging a -54 +/- in the four games. Wallace, on the other hand, was a +51. And in that Game 4, Wallace went 7-for-8 from the free throw line, this coming after he shot 40.8 percent from the charity stripe in the regular season. O'Neal from the free throw line in that Game 4? 0-for-7.

3. Dec. 13, 2006: 15 points, 20 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocks, 39 minutes

Another stat stuffer for Wallace, who totaled at the time his season-high in both points, rebounds and blocks in a win over the SuperSonics. He became the first Bulls player since Horace Grant in 1993 to record at least 20 rebounds and five blocks in a game. Since Wallace accomplished the feat, only Joakim Noah has reached those totals in a Bulls uniform, doing so in 2009 and 2013.

2. Feb. 22, 2007: 14 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 7 blocks, 44 minutes

Squaring off against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, the Bulls got an incredible performance from Wallace. His 19-rebound effort helped the Bulls win the battle of the boards, 52-40. And of Wallace's seven blocks, five came in the first half when the Cavs scored just 31 points. It marked just the second time the Bulls had topped a LeBron-led team in Cleveland, and the first time since King James' rookie season.

1. Dec. 15, 2006, vs. Milwaukee: 10 points, 27 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 48 minutes

Too bad you couldn't have had Wallace in your FanDuel lineup on this night. He played all but the last six seconds in a victory over the Bucks. The 27 rebounds were the most by any player in the NBA since 2002, when Wallace grabbed 28 rebounds in a 2002 win over the Pistons. No player reached the 27-board mark until 2008, when Marcus Camby did so against the Bulls in 2008. The fact that he added six assists, three steals and three blocks only add to what was clearly his best performance in a Bulls uniform.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

dunnlavinelauri.png
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.