Bulls

Nets owner meets with star guard to discuss future

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Nets owner meets with star guard to discuss future

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with Deron Williams to discuss his future with the NBA team, but the Russian tycoon refused to say whether the All-Star guard gave any indication whether he would stay with the club after this season. Prokhorov said the two met Monday, adding both have a tremendous desire to win which is something the Nets did not do enough this season. They are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season. In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday after he toured his nearly completed Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a hard-hat wearing Prokhorov said the Nets are like his building, a work under construction. He said the arena will be one of the best in the world, and his team will win an NBA title when complete. The most immediate issue for Prokhorov's team is Williams, who is the Nets' lone star. He has the right to opt out of his contract after this season and he has said he will test the free-agent market. While he has not said he will leave the team, Williams wants to play for a winner, and the Nets have to make strides in that direction. "I think he wants to win, and he wants to be part of a great franchise," Prokhorov said. "We have the same view on this." When asked about his meeting with Prokhorov after the Nets dropped a 107-88 decision to Philadelphia, Williams was petulant. "Like I'm going to tell you," he said. The Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban, whom Prokhorov refers to as a friend, are said to be interested in Williams if he became a free agent. "Let the best man win," Prokhorov said of being challenged by Cuban. "If he wins, I will crush him in the kickboxing throw down." The comment drew a huge laugh from the roughly 100 members of the media who attended the news conference in the now dust-covered atrium of the new arena. The 46-year-old Prokhorov asked Nets' fans for patience, saying he was trying to find the right pieces to construct a champion, not just a playoff team. He said the Nets would have made the playoffs in this lockout-shortened season had it not been for injuries, the most significant being a broken foot that limited center Brook Lopez to five games. Prokhorov has not done well on the NBA free-agent market. He failed to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh two years ago and last season New Jersey could not reach a deal with Denver for Carmelo Anthony before he was traded to the rival Knicks. The Nets also were in the hunt to acquire perennial All-Star Dwight Howard from Orlando before the recent trading deadline. However, the center opted to stay with the Magic for another year. Prokhorov said the Nets did meet with Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, but it was to discuss another one of his clients, Nene. Now, there is Williams. "Wait for the summer," Prokhorov said. "I'll tell you all the details. For the time being, it's top secret for us." Prokhorov did not see his team play in person until this past weekend, staying in Russia to run for president. He added he watches the team play 80 percent of its games and he is involved in all the day-to-day decisions. Despite a third-place finish to Vladimir Putin in the recent presidential election in Russia, Prokhorov said he still has political aspirations. He said the finish was a nice start and added that 20 percent of the Russian people want political change. "I met a lot of people, now I know much better for different aspects of Russian life," Prokhorov said. "They really deserve the changes. " Prokhorov also reached out to Nets fans living in New Jersey, asking them to continue to come and support the club as it heads to a new home after 35 years in the Garden State. "I know some people are very skeptical," he said. "But life is life, so I think we'll do our best to just persuade them to join us here." The 18,000-seat arena, which was built primarily for basketball, is scheduled to open on Sept. 28 with a concert by Jay-Z, a minority owner. The arena expects to have 220 events in its first year with concerts seating an extra 1,000 people. Developer Bruce Ratner, who has partnered in building the arena and bringing to Brooklyn its first major sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957, said the arena will open on time. He believes it will be ready for some dry runs 30 days before the opening. Prokhorov said the arena could be used for hockey, but there are no immediate plans to lure the Islanders from Long Island to Brooklyn.

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 or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.