Bobby Portis

Sources: Bulls 'will discuss' contract extension for Bobby Portis this summer


Sources: Bulls 'will discuss' contract extension for Bobby Portis this summer

The Bobby Portis story has evolved from the preseason, where he put the punch in punchline following his incident with Nikola Mirotic and many felt he shouldn’t have played another game in a Bulls uniform.

It’s a distant memory as he prepares for his first stint as a starter Monday against the Boston Celtics, where his play has done the talking and he’s used his emotion to help the Bulls develop an identity of competitiveness.

Those good graces may have the Bulls truly evaluating where Portis fits long-term, and it could work to the benefit of both sides as they could engage in contract extension talks this summer before Portis is scheduled to hit restricted free agency, if the two sides don't reach a deal this October.

A front office source tells a deal for Portis “will be discussed” this summer, as Portis has had a breakout third season, averaging 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds. In the 11 games since the Bulls traded Mirotic to New Orleans, Portis’ tangible production has matched his efficiency, as he’s averaged 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 47 percent and 39 percent from 3-point range.

While Zach LaVine’s restricted free agency is more immediate and David Nwaba is a priority the Bulls will still have salary cap space beyond next season when Robin Lopez’ contract comes off the books, along with Omer Asik’s $3 million buyout of his $11.9 million deal.

Portis will make $2.49 million next season, so any contract extension won’t take hold until the 2019-20 season when the salary cap is expected to take another jump from $101 million this coming summer to $109 million.

Recent history says the Bulls let their restricted free agents go into the marketplace before getting a deal done—not to the point of getting offer sheets which would be a tricky proposition—but establishing value.

If the Bulls lock him up to a deal this summer, it could prevent Portis from becoming more costly down the line if he makes another jump in year four—with Jimmy Butler being the example, turning himself from a solid starter to an All-Star and max player in 2014-15.

It would go against Bulls precedent, as only Derrick Rose received a contract extension before going into restricted free agency, but Portis will be open to contract talks this summer, according to sources.

Portis’ improvement from his second year to third year has been noticeable, and if the Bulls didn’t know his leaguewide value his eight-game suspension after the altercation with Mirotic had to be an eye-opener.

Over 20 teams reached out to the Bulls with the thought to acquire him, sources told in October when Mirotic issued his “Portis or me” ultimatum during his recovery from a concussion and facial injuries.

Portis’ play this season has done nothing to quell that desire, as his 3-point shooting has improved and he’s become a much better finisher at the rim, due to the work on his body.

“We've all seen the improvements of Bobby on the floor. but I think as important as anything he's really committed himself to the weight room with our strength coaches this summer,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “And he's really been dedicated to working on his body to make himself quicker, more athletic and stronger.”

Portis stayed in Chicago last summer in anticipation of a real opportunity after playing behind Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Mirotic his first two years. Now he stands his ground more times than not in the post on defense and has become an excellent communicator on the back line.

“For sure. It's kind of funny,” Portis said. “In training camp, it's always Taj who was stronger than me then and now playing against some other veterans around the league, bumping into them now, they be like, damn, strong ass dude. It's crazy to hear them say that. It's a blessing. It's always fun.”

He knows there’s more improvements to come with his body, as he just turned 23 last month and stands at 230 pounds.

“Try to be quicker on my feet, on the bounce, on offensive rebounds,” Portis said. “Going up stronger and quicker. Sometimes guys try to block my shot a little bit there. Try to stay consistent as I've done this year. Stay in the weight room, try to get bigger and stronger because you can always improve your body.”

His overall game and awareness has improved, hence his ability to play with Mirotic through their issues while also developing chemistry with rookie Lauri Markkanen. It’s no surprise the Bulls are looking to evaluate how he plays in large portions of time, because the two could see considerable time on the floor together next season, as a starter or reserve.

With the Bulls expected to entertain offers for Lopez around the draft, combined with Cristiano Felicio regressing in the first year of his contract, it wouldn’t be surprising to see two sides establish a true dialogue this summer—especially with the draft presenting myriad options for the Bulls, as they could look for a frontcourt player or swingman.

Even still, keeping a productive player who fits alongside Markkanen and has improved yearly seems to be prudent.

“He's able to back down on guys down in a league that's really gone to a lot of switching. He can punish the switch on the block,” Hoiberg said. “And the important thing is, with a big guy guarding him, he has the ability to stretch the floor where he's shown the improvement over his young course of his career to do that. So, we're really happy with Bobby, and I think he's really solidified himself as a big part of our future."

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 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 “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.

Sometimes you lose (win), sometimes you win and sometimes you're just tanktastic

Sometimes you lose (win), sometimes you win and sometimes you're just tanktastic

Sometimes you lose:

Cue Rosie Perez from “White Men Can’t Jump”: “Sometimes when you lose, you really win and sometimes when you win, you really lose”

The Bulls wouldn’t have minded if the Orlando Magic put together an improbable performance, but the Magic authored a ending worthy of their conference-worst standing.

After putting together a gutsy comeback in the fourth quarter, rebounding from an 18-point deficit, they had a chance to win with 15.2 seconds left.


Someone forgot to tell Zach LaVine the Bulls were supposed to lose, as he cut off Shelvin Mack’s angle on the inbounds pass, stealing it and getting a breakaway dunk with 12.4 seconds left to essentially seal the 105-101 win Monday at the United Center.

“He made a great read on the play, shooting the gap and getting the steal,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We were awful in those last seven minutes, as far as closing out that game. Had the big lead and just took our foot off the gas.”

With two games separating the Bulls and Magic before the game, the loss would’ve been valuable to the Bulls. In a league where there’s eight truly bad teams, the Bulls are eighth and it’s a clear distance of sorts between them and the next-worst team.

They’d just rather it not appear that way in the standings, so when Mario Hezonja got hot from the 3-point line and scoring 14 in the final period, there probably weren’t too many folks shedding tears.

The Bulls were collapsing and headed to a crushing loss. But after a five-point lead turned into a three-point deficit in a two-minute span, Bobby Portis hit two baskets to keep things within striking distance.

First a leaning floater and then a triple from a pick-and-pop with Jerian Grant feeding him to tie the game at 101.

Portis scored 10 of his 19 in the fourth, adding seven rebounds and three triples in 26 minutes.

“That’s a play coach runs for me all the time,” Portis said. “I have confidence in that shot and it was open. Coach always says it’s the open shot that’s the best shot, because if you keep passing you might not get a good shot.”

That might explain the 17 shots Portis took, clearly being aggressive on both ends as he provided energy in what wasn’t a well-played game for the better part of 46 minutes.

“It’s a great learning opportunity,” Hoiberg said. “We have to find a way to close it. It’s always better to learn from a win, no doubt about that.”

The Bulls are clearly not yet fully tanking, although they’re straddling the line. Kris Dunn is out of concussion protocol but hasn’t returned. But Cristiano Felicio hasn’t cut into Robin Lopez’ minutes and Cam Payne was still inactive.

They’ll have time to make up the 2.5-game deficit the Atlanta Hawks have over them at the bottom of the East, while the Sacramento Kings hold the same “lead” at the top of the lottery standings.

Problem is, there’s 26 games left and seven teams between where the Bulls are and where they’d ideally like to be at the end of 82 games.

Talk to ‘em, Rosie.

Sometimes you win:

If there’s any solace in the win, for the lottery truthers, it’s the fact LaVine was the one making the late-game play. He forced a bad angle on Jonathon Simmons’ inbounds pass to Shelvin Mack, breaking free for the aforementioned dunk to prevent the Bulls from a stunning collapse.

LaVine was a game-high plus-16, scoring 18 with seven rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes. He took a wing jumper on the possession before and was perturbed he couldn’t come through, so with the Magic having a chance to take a lead, he stepped in—literally.

“I pushed up on him (Mack),” LaVine said. “Tried to make it tough. I bumped into Mack, made an aggressive play on the ball.”

If you like the bright side of things, two of the cornerstones for the Bulls are backcourt players who’ll have the ball in their hands late as the NBA is a guard’s league and neither is afraid of clutch situations.

“You always want to have options late in games, depending on who’s got it going,” Hoiberg said. “Tonight he missed a couple shots but then makes the big defensive play for us and knocks down the clutch free-throws for the second time in three games.”

Kris Dunn doesn’t scare, and as LaVine has shown in the last four days, with his big plays late against the Timberwolves, he doesn’t flinch either.

“I embrace it, you have to get it done,” LaVine said. “Everybody wants the ball in their hands at the end of the game. You have to have the confidence. I think I do. You have to be sharper. You’ve gotta be aggressive. You have to make a big play.”

And let’s be honest here. LaVine is up for restricted free agency this summer. All of these plays go into this dossier to frame during negotiations, when free-agent money will be scarce league-wide.

So if a negotiation can get on the contentious side, winning plays like the last few nights can be his trump card of sorts.

“You gotta play for yourself,” LaVine told “You got front office evaluating you and things like that. There’s pride, you gotta go out there and show your worth. I definitely have something to play for.”

When it was mentioned LaVine had something specifically to play for, he cut off the question like he cut off Mack on the inbounds pass, telling, “The contract, yeah. (That’s) Backup, yeah. To show that you’re worth it. Of course.”

In his three games leading up to Monday, LaVine was averaging 27.7 points and 5.7 rebounds for his best stretch of the season to date, capped off by the 35-point masterpiece against his former team.

But he doesn’t want to simply be measured by the numbers, telling, “I’m giving you plays. It’s pride as well. At the end of the summer you have to stand up for yourself. You don’t worry about that, you let your play speak for itself. You’re not going out there and playing for money. It’s a big factor in our game.”


All bad teams aren’t created equal, and there’s reason the Magic are angling for the best pick possible because aside from Aaron Gordon, there isn’t much top-level talent on the roster.

They traded underwhelming Elfrid Payton at the deadline and didn’t exercise their 2018-19 option on former draft pick Mario Hezonja—yes, the guy who nearly shot the lights out and pulled a win out of nothing Monday night.

Next to the Atlanta Hawks, it may be the worst roster in the league but they play hard for coach Frank Vogel.

That being said, a favorite NBA commercial comes to mind—something the league could revive for the final stretch as several teams will be trotting out less than their best to improve lottery position.

(Just change the final slogan to “tanktastic!)



Okay, here’s another fave:

And last one: