The Rookie treatment is something first-year players have to get adjusted to, particularly from officials as the players begin to think they’re being targeted—often to the point of paranoia.
But when an official from halfcourt calls a foul on what the league will likely deem a flopping violation, Bobby Portis has every right to get the “crazy eyes” and talk about a lack of fair treatment.
Here’s looking at you, Kyle Lowry, who acted as if he were shot from a cannon when Portis grabbed a rebound and Lowry flung for the ball, barely making contact with Portis’ elbow that wasn’t extended.
It drew an offensive foul on Portis and gave the Raptors a little bit of life midway through the fourth as they were desperate for a late comeback in the Bulls’ 104-97 win Monday.
“I think he flopped,” Portis said. “I kinda got the rebound and I hit him a little bit. It’s the way he reacted, I don’t think it was a foul.”
But after the momentary frustration subsided, the rookie scored on a cut to the basket while being fouled, restoring a double-digit lead and playing crucial, valuable minutes in a win he felt was necessary.
“I feel like our team needed this for a confidence boost,” Portis said. “It’s a long season and we needed the positive energy.”
Portis scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 27 minutes of run, his fifth straight game where he’s played consistent minutes. Fans have been crying for the energetic first-round pick to get some playing time but it took Joakim Noah’s shoulder injury to create some room for Fred Hoiberg to use him.
And now, Hoiberg’s going to have to keep Portis on the floor because he’s so effective, even when Noah returns.
“He’s not afraid of the moment that’s for sure,” the Bulls coach said. “To be 20 years old and go out there, big minutes against Oklahoma City in a game on Christmas Day on ABC, it shows you what the kid’s makeup is all about. The kid’s got no concern, just thrives and has all kinds of confidence. You love to see that. He’s not gonna back down from anybody.”
Hoiberg said Portis grabbed “some grown-man rebounds” down there, a nod to the growing toughness forged by practicing against the likes of Noah and Taj Gibson every day.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Gibson said. “Bobby’s one of those guys, he’s a young guy but he’s so eager. He challenges you every day in practice. It’s like going against one of those old Boston Celtics.”
Sitting and waiting hasn’t been the easiest, especially with the Bulls lacking energy plenty of nights and other members of Portis’ rookie class getting the opportunities to play and play through mistakes.
“I can be patient. I haven’t had to wait on my turn since high school,” Portis said. “It’s the next stepping stone of my career, and I’m just being patient. And I’ve harped on it. It’s came and now I’ll keep working to be the best I can for this ball club.”
[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]
And one thing Portis is not, is bashful. When he’s out there, he’s looking for his shot and post-ups. He plants himself on the block and has a comfort level with a right-handed jump hook he executed twice to perfection in the second quarter, when he and Aaron Brooks combined to score the first 19 points, erasing a nine-point deficit.
“He’s still a rookie and he’s gonna make mistakes,” Gibson said. “Even if you know it, you have to put it in his head to be aggressive.”
He kept asking Gibson questions throughout the game about matchups and angles, and kept taking advantage, earning Hoiberg’s trust to the point of playing big minutes in the fourth when the energetic Bulls ran away from the Raptors while the vets sat on the bench.
“It’s at an even keel,” said Portis of his demeanor. “I’m not where I need to be or where I want to be. I just let the game come to me. It’s just picking the defense.”
“Offensively I wanna bring aggression. Post up, shoot, pass the ball. Blocking shots, rebounding. Rebounding has always come to me, I can do that at a high level.”
And with that, he’s become a valuable asset for the Bulls, not just for the future but the present as well.