With each game, Bobby Portis grows into more than a rotation player, more into a big piece of the Bulls’ future.
And with the crowded frontcourt being crowded as the injuries pile up for the swingmen, with Mike Dunleavy’s status unknown and Doug McDermott undergoing an MRI on his right knee, the rumor mill will keep swirling for the Bulls to make a change to balance out their roster.
Such circumstances could bring about mixed feelings for a veteran like Taj Gibson, who would be a hot name if the Bulls put him on the market—and depending on whom you believe, the front office has already put out feelers on the likes of Gibson, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.
But Gibson, who’s adopted Portis and taken to him in practices and now games, doesn’t see it that way.
“What do you mean mixed feelings? It’s never mixed feelings,” said Gibson to CSNChicago.com on his way out of the United Center Monday night after the Bulls’ win over the Toronto Raptors.
Gibson was asked if Portis’ emergence could give the Bulls the confidence to trade someone, even himself, prompting his respectful but clear answer.
“At the end of the day I care about my teammates. I don’t worry about all that. If he plays well it’s good for us, it’s good for the team. I want him to succeed. At the end of the day, we’re millionaires. We play a game.”
There hasn’t appeared to be much movement around the league as far as trades, in large part due to the clunky nature of the Eastern Conference. There’s a 1.5-game separation between the second-seeded Atlanta Hawks and eighth-seeded Miami Heat, and teams appear to be in wait-and-see mode before making roster moves.
Gibson seemed to take things in stride, as his gritty play, low-maintenance attitude and affordable contract makes him attractive to other teams. He’s the Bulls’ best low-post defender, defensive rebounder and finisher above the rim.
“Nah, my name has been in rumors my whole career. You look at things like that, it’s part of the game,” Gibson told CSNChicago.com. “At the end of the day, I play in the NBA. I can’t complain. I go out there and do my job. Whatever happens will happen. I play for the Chicago Bulls, it’s the jersey I’m wearing.”
Ports has soaked up all the knowledge given by Gibson and Noah, as the latter is sidelined by a shoulder injury.
“Man, tremendously. He's helped me a lot,” said Portis of Gibson. “He's like the big brother I never had. I've always been the big brother to all my basketball teams I've played on, I always had to be that guy to uplift people and he's uplifting me to the utmost. I really credit it to him because he always just gives me kind words every day.”
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Portis’ energy is palpable and his production is starting to meet the expectations of a player who was billed as a lottery pick but up until recently could only display his talent in practices.
“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.”
“I told guys on the team: Rookies always work their way in. From Jimmy (Butler), myself, Joakim. Everybody always works their way in and earns their minutes. You see Bobby, he’s earning his minutes. He’s doing it the right way. He’s coming to practice, busting his tail, putting the work in, never complaining, that’s the right way. He may get criticism for coming in and not playing early like other guys, but we’re molding him right. You see tonight, it’s gonna make him an even better player later in the season.”
The work has earned Gibson’s respect and admiration, and he’s followed the tradition set forth by the veterans who took him under their wing, as in former Bulls Brad Miller, Tyrus Thomas and current Bull Noah.
“A lot of guys that had a lot of faith in me. But I had to work my way through it,” Gibson said. “Same with Jimmy, he had to work his way through the wild. Everybody had to work their way to get those quality minutes. It’s a testament to how hard we practice, a testament to how we believe in each other. It’s gonna make him a better player, watch when I tell you that.”