Myles Turner approaching NBA with 'strictly business' attitude


Myles Turner approaching NBA with 'strictly business' attitude

When Texas freshman Myles Turner hears his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft on June 25, don't expect a scene.

He'll walk up to the podium in a clean-cut suit - no bow ties or loud colors - and will shake commissioner Adam Silver's hand - no hugs - before posing with the uniform of the team that employs the talented 6-foot-11 athlete. There won't be anything boisterous or comedic about that night for Turner, because the 19-year-old already understands he's entering a business that will command his best each day.

"I’m going to keep it strictly professional. It’s a business now, and that’s how I’m going to approach it," Turner said at the NBA Draft Combine. "Since I was a kid, it’s been a dream of mine."

Turner isn't sure when he'll be selected in next month's draft, in part because he stays as far away from mocks draft as he can. "That's my agent's job. That's why I hired him," Turner deadpans.

But teenagers who stand 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, weigh 240 pounds and have the shooting touch of a guard usually don't have to wait long on draft night. Turner, the No. 9 high school recruit in the 2014 class, became a surefire lottery pick after his lone season at Texas; he started only seven games but appeared in all 34 for the Longhorns, averaging 10.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game.

[NBA DRAFT PROFILE: Texas forward Myles Turner]

He didn't have the same impact as some of his fellow top-10 classmates - Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones keyed Duke to a national title, Karl-Anthony Towns led Kentucky to a perfect regular season, and Stanley Johnson led the 34-win Arizona Wildcats in scoring - instead choosing the hometown Longhorns over the likes of Kansas, Ohio State and a host of other high-major schools. That meant sitting behind senior Jonathan Holmes and junior Cameron Ridley, who like Turner was a five-star recruit out of high school, while learning the ropes of the college game. 

Turner was a mixed bag all year, perhaps more indicative of a typical freshman than what his class made it appear to be. On Feb. 11 he scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes against TCU; three days later he scored 25 points and hauled in 12 rebounds, connecting on a 3-pointer and blocking three shots against Texas Tech.

He had nine games in which he recorded five or more blocked shots, yet also had six block-less games. His role diminished down the stretch as Texas opted for smaller lineups, as he averaged just 14.6 minutes in the Longhorns' three postseason games, culminating in a loss to Butler in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

But the well-spoken, confident Turner said he took those up and downs in stride.

He saw the professional side of things when head coach Rick Barnes, now at Tennessee, showed him film of LaMarcus Aldridge playing in the same burnt orange jersey. He understood the level of play he'd need to compete with at the next level when Texas alum and reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant came to Austin and played pick-up games with the team over the summer. And when the ninth best recruit in the country rode the bench for all but seven games, it taught him a lesson about what may initially happen in his rookie season.

"It really matured me throughout the course of the year. It humbled me. Coming in, I was highly recruited but I came in and settled into a role," he said. "That’s what I’m going to have to do at the next level."

[ROTOWORLD MOCK DRAFT: At No. 22, the Bulls select...]

He has plenty of room to grow and isn't as NBA-ready as some of the bigs ahead of him such as Okafor, Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, but his game is made for the NBA. He's a rare blend of defensive IQ, length, offensive range (he shot 84 percent from the free-throw line and hit 17 3-pointers) that'll make him a true stretch-four with the ability to eventually defend NBA centers.

NBA teams also know they're getting a player with no frills. Though he's just a year removed from his senior prom, Turner's attitude and mentality heading into the Association will give him a leg up as he learns the game, improves his offensive versatility and builds his body to bang inside on a nightly basis. There may not be a more mentally ready player in this year's class.

"It’s going to be really exciting. It really does not matter to me where I play," he said. "I just want to go out there and go somewhere where I can be used and develop and bring success to the team I’m drafted by."

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


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.