Bobby Portis a 'unanimous selection' for Bulls' front office


Bobby Portis a 'unanimous selection' for Bulls' front office

In the days before Thursday's NBA Draft, Gar Forman and the Bulls front office didn't have much discussion about Bobby Portis.

The SEC Player of the Year who had averaged 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in his second season at Arkansas was projected to fall somewhere in the middle of the first round, perhaps as early as No. 15 to the Hawks and well before the Bulls were set to select at No. 22.

But as power forwards continued to fall off the Bulls' draft board — Frank Kaminsky to the Hornets, Myles Turner to the Pacers, Trey Lyles to the Jazz — and other teams went after shooters in Kelly Oubre, Sam Dekker and Justin Anderson, Portis' name remained.

So when the Bulls went on the clock just before 9 p.m., the entire war room was in agreement about who the selection would be.

"We were going to take the best player available," said Forman, who admitted the Bulls slotted Portis as a late lottery pick. "When Bobby was on the board at 22 there was no discussion; he was the guy we were going to take."

[MORE BULLS: Bulls take Arkansas' Bobby Portis with No. 22 pick in NBA Draft]

Forman said the Bulls did their scouting on Portis throughout the year but that the majority of their targets were guards heading into Thursday night because of the "reality of the situation." Looking to fill a critical backup point guard position and some injury insurance for Derrick Rose, as many as six players at the position were expected to be selected in the first 30 picks.

The expected run on point guards occurred in the teens, with Oklahoma City drafting Cameron Payne with the final lottery pick after D'Angelo Russell had gone No. 2 to Los Angeles and Emmanuel Mudiay No. 7 to Denver. Boston then opted for Louisville point guard Terry Rozier — who the Bulls had been linked to — Phil Jackson and the Knicks traded up to No. 19 to grab Notre Dame's Jerian Grant, and the Raptors replaced Greivis Vasquez by drafting Utah's Delon Wright one pick later.

That left the Bulls with one realistic option at point guard, Duke's Tyus Jones. The front office's affinity for Blue Devils might have had Jones near the top of their list as Dallas selected Virginia's Justin Anderson at No. 21 and put the Bulls on the clock, but with Portis still available the discussions were short and debates non-existent.

"Just being in the draft room tonight, it’s not very often when you get to your pick, especially in the 20s, and everyone, it’s a unanimous decision," head coach Fred Hoiberg, who previously worked in Minnesota's front office, said. "And that happened tonight with Bobby still on the board. So it’s exciting."

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Bulls draft hat right here]

Portis filled a need, too.

With Taj Gibson set to miss four months with ankle surgery and Joakim Noah's knee an ongoing issue, Portis will provide stability, depth and insurance for the future as the Bulls transition to a more uptempo offense under Hoiberg. The Razorbacks' leading scorer has range out to the 3-point line and was a stellar mid-range shooter and was one of college basketball's best offensive rebounders.

But Forman was insistent that the selection was simply following the draft board.

"When we address needs, a lot of time we feel it’s either via trade or free agency. And we’re going to draft the best player we feel is available, and we look at it that way not only for the near future but for down the road," Forman said. "And we felt 100 percent for sure when we were at 22 and he was on the board that he was the best player available to us."

Forman said he feels as though the Bulls are getting a mature player in Portis, despite his sophomore status. Forman had selected four upperclassmen with his seven first-round picks since taking over as Bulls' general manager, and the team's current win-now, contender status would have made selecting an NBA-ready player a viable option.

[SHOP BULLS: Buy a Bobby Portis jersey]

But Forman stayed true to his board, finding a value pick in the 6-foot-11 forward. And though it wasn't what he was expecting when the Timberwolves went on the clock to begin the night, it ended with the Bulls unanimously selecting a player they feel has lottery-caliber potential.

"As we saw him start to slip we got excited about him, and then we were surprised he was there," Forman said. "Really excited to get Bobby. I think he’s going to be a fit with our team, a fit in our locker room. I think he’s got a lot of potential for the future and is a guy that will really, really fit in with our team."

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury


Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

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.