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Bulls GM Forman coy about team's plans on media day

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Bulls GM Forman coy about team's plans on media day

In his first official appearance in front of the media, Bulls general manager Gar Forman didn't shed much light on the organization's future transactions. When questioned about issues ranging from the potential acquisition of shooting guard Rip Hamilton and the team's involvement in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes to veteran big man Kurt Thomas signing with Portland and the status of Keith Bogans, last season's starting shooting guard, Forman played coy.

"Really, all I know is what Ive read," Forman said regarding Hamilton, reportedly bought out by the Pistons, though the process might not be completed yet. "I dont want to talk about other teams' players."

About Howard, Forman offered one of his standard lines, saying, "Its our job to be in touch with all 29 teams around the league and we have been in the last week.

"I wouldnt mention individual names or share our business or who were talking to as far as players are concerned," he continued. "Were having conversations throughout the league."

As far as Bogans, Forman reiterated the stance he took in a statement released by the team on Friday, when the veteran shooting guard was pulled off the Berto Center practice floor in the first practice of training camp. However, despite his praise of Bogans, it now seems unlikely that he'll return to Chicago or that the Bulls will have a chance to exercise their 1.73 million team option by the Dec. 19 deadline.

Forman took his shtick even further when Thomas--who reportedly signed a two-year contract with the Trail Blazers--was mentioned, professing that he wasn't aware of the deal for the league's elder statesman, a valuable member of the Bulls' 62-win regular-season team a year ago, before offering platitudes.

"Obviously we wanted Kurt back and we offered Kurt a contract. He was a big part of what we did a year ago," he said. "But Kurt had to evaluate the situation from his perspective and obviously he must have felt that Portland presented a better opportunity off him.

"Well have to have some depth behind them, even if its just from a practice standpoint. Its hard to go through a season with just four bigs. Thats still something were taking a look at, whether we add another four or a five," Forman added, when asked whether the Bulls would another insurance-policy post player to their frontline. "Again, if we dont find the right guy well be patient with it try to keep some flexibility with that position. If we dont address it right away, we may address it down the road."

Forman did offer some clarity as to the Bulls' thought process during the NBA's chaotic, truncated free-agency period, indicating that the franchise would exercise patience and are confident in the current roster.

"It was our goal to bring the nucleus of this team back and we have. We love the makeup and character of this basketball team. What we really like is the chemistry that weve got and the way these guys work together," said Forman. "We're still exploring ways we can improve this basketball team moving forward, and and we still have some roster spots and a little bit of flexibility, and were exploring options, as far as making additions to this team, and hopefully something will happen in regards to that in the next few days.

"The way weve approached this free agency, weve been in contact with a number of players and weve really tried to explore a number of different options we feel we would have a chance to improve this basketball team. If we find the right player or players that we feel give us a chance to get better, well certainly make a move. That said, our feeling has always been were not going to make a move just to make a move. If we dont feel its a plus for this team, well bring this team back as is and feel really good about our group of guys and give them a chance to continue to grow," he continued. "I dont want to talk about specific players, but obviously right now weve got 11 guys under contract and we still have some spots to fill and some flexibility as to how we approach it."

One thing the general manager didn't hem and haw about, however, was their efforts in the process to get the league MVP signed to a long-term extension to remain in his hometown.

"Derrick is the centerpiece of what were trying to put together here. Obviously, we want Derrick to be a Chicago Bull for a long, long time," said Forman. "To us, its obviously very important that we put the right pieces around Derrick and hes able to have success, that we have success, and that he remains a Chicago Bull.

"Were talking to his representatives now and hopefully well be able to get something done in a pretty short amount of time."

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

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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.