Bulls

Loman a big reason why Dash are headed to playoffs

Loman a big reason why Dash are headed to playoffs

Friday, Sept. 3, 2010
10:20 AM

By Kevin T. Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

Maybe its Seth Lomans size that intimidates opposing pitchers. Perhaps its his impressive stat line that has them worried. Or, it could just be the elbow pad and shin guard he wears at the plate that give opposing hurlers the feeling of carte blanche when it comes to pitching inside.

Whatever the reason, opposing pitchers do feel the need to come inside to Loman, who extended his own Carolina League record on Thursday when he was hit by a pitch for the 30th time this year. He broke Rusty Crocketts 21-year-old Carolina League record on Aug. 4 when he was hit for the 25th time. The record plunking comes in the wake of his 2009 season, during which he was hit 23 times while playing at Kannapolis and Winston-Salem.

While Lomans bat hes hitting .290 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs is a big reason why the Dash are heading into the playoffs as the Carolina Leagues hottest team, its his ability to lean into a pitch as much as anything else that has helped the teams offensive cause. The 24-year-old Loman, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs nearly 230 pounds, leads the league with 86 runs scored, is second with 255 total bases while posting a healthy .378 on-base percentage.

I might have to start wearing catchers gear if it keeps up at this rate, said Loman, who saw an eight-game hitting streak come to an end on Thursday. I definitely get hit a lot. I dont think I got hit a lot in college and Im not on the plate that much, a little less than the length of a bat away. People start throwing inside and I guess I dont move out of the way.

I dont have a real answer for it. I know a guy like Craig Biggio got hit a lot and its weird because he was one of those hard-nosed, get on base any way you can types. Im not that hard-nosed middle infield guy.

What Loman is, however, is a hitter, one that can produce. Hes been a pleasant surprise since the White Sox signed him out of the independent Golden League following the 2008 season. He was originally a 47th-round pick by the Angels in 2005 but he had philosophical differences with the club regarding hitting and the two sides parted ways despite the fact he hit .323 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 45 Arizona League games in 2007.

It was never really a good fit with the Angels, Loman said. I never meshed with them and they tried to alter some things with my hitting. It was a constant battle with different philosophies on hitting. I guess thats why I was released. I dont know.

Here I can own my own approach. I dont want to talk bad about the Angels but with the Sox, the managers are your friends and they are rooting for you. They want you to succeed. You dont have to do it their way. They tell you its your career, you have to own. In other places, its more of a college mindset.

Part of the reason why Loman has been able to own his approach to the plate this year has been Sox hitting instructor Jeff Manto. The former utility man played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues and he was of immense help to Loman this year.

Manto encouraged Loman to stay back on the ball more, stay behind it and work off the back leg on off-speed pitches. The results have been impressive.

The hands-on stuff was different than I imagined but I got the whole concept of staying on the back foot to hit off-speed stuff, Loman said. The goal was to become more of an all-around hitter than a free swinger. He said a good hitter should hit any pitch in any count. Im glad Manto spoke those words of wisdom to me.

At first it was tough because I had a couple of different stances this year. I tried to find a common medium and recently it has been coming together a bit. He told me youre the big guy in the four-hole and you have to start hitting that off-speed pitch. I took that to heart.

Aside from Manto, Loman has been able to rely on manager Super Joe McEwing and his father, Doug Loman, who played parts of two seasons with the Brewers, for advice. The trio has helped make the soon-to-be free agent an accomplished hitter. While Loman will be free to sign with another club once this season ends, he says he wants to stay in Chicago and is already thinking about playing in Birmingham and beyond next season.

Id love to be back, he said. Playing with the Sox has been like a dream come true. I hope to be in Birmingham next year.

The Carolina League playoffs start on Wednesday with the Dash likely facing Kinston in the opening round. No doubt, Loman will get hit as well as picking up some hits on the road to a league title.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

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.