Bulls

NFL opening temporary store in Manhattan

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NFL opening temporary store in Manhattan

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL is setting up shop in midtown Manhattan -- literally. Eight blocks from Radio City Music Hall, where the draft will be held April 22-28, the league is establishing a temporary facility with a theme: NFL Shop at Draft. It's the first such endeavor, a chance to not only unveil products from the league's new partners, including Nike, New Era and Under Armour, but to whet fans' appetite for the NFL's biggest event that doesn't actually involve football. The draft has become an industry unto itself. Analysts, personal trainers and broadcasters make a living solely from the buildup, which actually begins with the kickoff of the college season in late summer, and ends with the selections. Radio City is packed with die-hards, dressed in their team colors, perhaps even painted thusly. Every early pick is cheered or jeered -- often both. That fervor helped spark the NFL's decision to open up shop across from New York's landmark Bryant Park, beginning on April 2. The official presentation of Nike's new jerseys for all 32 teams and New Era's headgear will come at what the league is calling a "huge NFL energy space" where Commissioner Roger Goodell is planning to man one of the cash registers on opening day. "We're looking at marketing opportunies anytime we have an event," said Leo Kane, the league's senior vice president of consumer products. "We will have a kickoff event in the New York metropolitan area with the Giants having won the Super Bowl. We look at our international season focused in London and at Wembley. We moved into (merchandising at) the Super Bowl and were thrilled with what we were able to do in Indianapolis. Now we are showing what we can do before and at the draft. We want to have a year-round footprint." Certainly the NFL has done that on the news side with one of the busiest headline-grabbing offseasons. Much of that was concencerned bounties and salary cap reductions. But the fans' interest displayed emphatically the fervor they carry for pro football. So, of course, does spending their money on merchandise. In many cases, that involves online purchases. But for one month, New Yorkers and visitors to the Big Apple -- including those who come in for the draft -- will have a place to set foot in and pick out apparel and the like. "I've been 19 years at the NFL, and I don't think there's been a year we have not talked about (building) a store," Kane said. "We're not sure it makes sense. We did a pop-up in New Orleans when the season kickoff was there the year the Saints won the Super Bowl and it was dedicated to products for women and phenomenally successful. "Anytime you do a pop-up store, you are testing. One of the things we like is testing in New York. There's a Super Bowl here in 22 months and we will get a good indication if makes sense along these lines for Super Bowl 48. If we are successful in doing this for the draft this year and the draft next year and then Super Bowl 48, will it make sense? We don't know that yet." What the NFL does know is that Nike will unveil its jerseys for the 32 teams and New Era will present caps specifically for the draft that are sure to get noticed. Those caps will be given not only to the Andrew Lucks of the world but all the other draftees at the music hall. "It's a city-based theme," New Era President Pete Augustine said. "All these guys coming through the draft are getting a new hometown. "What we like for the draft this year is we have a level of fashion that should be appealing to die-hard fans and one allowing the look and feel of the logo on the front. We have a variety of products that have the same look and feel beyond what the drafted athlete can wear." New Era, Nike and Under Armour are among seven marketing partners that are replacing Reebok, whose 10-year deal with the league concludes at the end of March. The other companies are Gill, VF, Outerstuff and '47 Brand. Kane said it was time for a change. "Reebok was a great partner for 10 years, the right partner 10 years ago, and we're very proud of some of the things we have done with them," he said. "We now have a more flexible model for our fans. It is difficult to be the best jersey guy and headwear guy, to provide (merchandise or equipment) for the field and the NFL combine. The business is still segmented, but we looked to put world-class leaders in each category. I think it will bring more innovation."

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.