Bulls

Bobby Portis ejected on a questionable play late in loss to Wizards

Bobby Portis ejected on a questionable play late in loss to Wizards

The action happens in a split second, but the reaction can take minutes where human emotion and judgment enter into the equation, along with reputation.

Enter Bobby Portis, who instinctively saw Washington Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky cutting across the baseline and rising for a dunk.

Portis went up high for the block, getting the ball and a chunk of the lighter Satoransky as he took a hard fall and the Wizards training staff was immediately called to the floor.

A common foul was upgraded to a flagrant 2 and Portis was ejected with 2:35 remaining in the Bulls’ 101-90 loss at the United Center Saturday night. Although Nikola Mirotic left Chicago nearly two weeks ago, the remnants of their preseason incident could’ve very well factored into the officials decision to throw Portis out.

“First time I’ve ever been involved in it. Something new for me,” Portis said. “Not gonna be involved in it too much in my career. At the same time, the refs called what they called, you have to respect the refs. No injuries intended on Satoransky, just competing, playing hard like I always do.”

Similar to the NFL and its changing rules surrounding helmet-to-helmet hits, the NBA’s rule on flagrant fouls are subject to interpretation based on the definition of “unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent. It is an unsportsmanlike act and the offender is ejected immediately.”

Portis made a split-second decision and suffered the ultimate penalty for playing with instinct, completing his 13-point, four-rebound night in 22 minutes—one of the few Bulls who was on the plus side (+3) in a game where a predictable letdown happened after an emotional high of Friday night’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“As a basketball player you’re not worried about trying to hurt somebody,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com. “You’re worried about trying to protect your teammates. He blew by my teammate, tight game, we’re down eight at the time, I think I can make a play on the basketball, maybe we can hit a three and we’ll be down five.”

Portis made clear there was no intent to hurt Satoransky, and the collision made things look worse than the play Portis was attempting to make.

“Everybody knows the rule,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s a dangerous play. If he had to do it all over again, he probably would have taken it back. It’s a competitive moment. He’s trying to prevent the dunk but it’s one of those things.”

At some point for Portis, the incident with Mirotic will be a footnote in his dossier as opposed to the headliner. He won’t always be subject for fodder from fans in visiting arenas, but for now he’ll have to wear this scarlet letter.

It didn’t help that Portis was in the wrong place at the wrong time earlier in the game, with his knee making contact with backup point guard Tim Frazier’s head, causing a nasal fracture for Frazier in the second quarter.

Already without John Wall following knee surgery, Portis’s play against Satoransky left the Wizards without a point guard for the last three minutes, even though the Bulls couldn’t take advantage.

“I gotta go out there and play basketball,” Portis said. “I hear it from the crowd every away game, in the streets. It don’t bother me. I’ll probably hear it the next couple years.”

After serving his eight-game suspension to start the season he’s been one of the most dependable reserves in the NBA, averaging 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 20.9 minutes. His player efficiency rating is nearly 21 and the Bulls’ off/on numbers were better with Portis on the floor than it was with Mirotic, although Mirotic’s gaudy numbers garnered more attention.

But the first thing that comes to mind with Portis is a potential reputation building, one he hopes to avoid.

“It looked, to me, late in the game—in a close game—it looked to me like maybe Bobby was going across the lane to make a play at the ball,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I don’t think it was a dirty play. I think he was going over to try to make a play, to prevent a layup.”

Satoransky was having a night, leading the inconsistent Wizards with 25 points and six assists, hitting five triples as the Bulls focused their attention on Wall’s All-Star backcourt mate, Bradley Beal.

Beal was just three of 13 as the Bulls gave themselves a chance after trailing by 16 midway through the third quarter. With Zach LaVine unavailable on a back-to-back and Kris Dunn still not back in action, the Bulls had seven players score in double figures but couldn’t produce enough offense consistently.

Justin Holiday scored 15 and Lauri Markkanen was rediscovered by his teammates after a seven-shot performance Friday night, but couldn’t take full advantage of his 19 shots, hitting only five.

The Bulls shot just 42.5 percent and were nine of 32 from 3-point range, but Hoiberg lauded the effort. After cutting the Wizards’ lead to seven with 4:14 left on a Holiday triple, the Bulls went scoreless.

“I thought we did a great job of hanging in there when they got up double digits,” Hoiberg said. “We have to get off to better starts, we defended much better in the second half. That was the difference in the game, but it had nothing to do with effort.”

Too bad for the Bulls and for Portis, that effort wasn’t rewarded.

Mark Schanowski's NBA Draft Big Board 6.0

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USA TODAY

Mark Schanowski's NBA Draft Big Board 6.0

With all the national debate concerning whether Zion Williamson should continue playing for Duke following the Grade 1 knee sprain he suffered on Thursday, one thing is clear: Zion will be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft no matter what he ultimately decides to do.

Granted, it was frightening to see Williamson’s left shoe explode and his right knee bend inwardly at an awkward angle, but the good news is he wasn’t seriously injured and should be able to play again very soon. It’s hard to believe the injury will have any impact on how Zion’s pro future is being evaluated by NBA scouts and executives, other than a continuing concern over his ability to withstand the rigors of an 82 game schedule at his listed weight of 285 pounds.

Williamson’s teammate R.J. Barrett had to turn up his offensive game after Zion went out against North Carolina, and wound up scoring 33 points, while Cam Reddish added 27. Both players figure to go in the top 5 come June.

One player who has caught my attention in recent weeks is Gonzaga big man Rui Hachimura. Even though he’s more of a traditional power forward at 6-foot-8, Hachimura showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive past defenders in recent games for the Zags, and for the season, he’s averaging just over 20 points a game, shooting 60 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three-point line.

With so many of the preseason lottery prospects struggling to find consistency, Hachimura is climbing up draft boards with steady production for the nation’s second ranked team. The Zags’ other starting forward, Brandon Clarke, is also drawing attention from NBA talent evaluators, averaging nearly 17 points and eight rebounds a game on an astounding 69 percent success rate from the field.

With the top 4 picks looking pretty solid right now, expect to see all kinds of movement from the 5 to 14 range in mock drafts heading into the draft combine in May. I’ve got Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland moving up to No. 6 this week, even though he hasn’t played since Nov. 23 because of a meniscus injury.

Maybe sitting out is the best strategy for some of the highly rated prospects who’ve looked decidedly average this season, like Indiana’s Romeo Langford, Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson and North Carolina’s Nassir Little.

This could be a year where performances at the draft combine and individual team workouts lead to a player making a dramatic rise or fall when the picks are announced on June 20.

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Should Zion Williamson shut it down and sit for the rest of the season?

Should Zion Williamson shut it down and sit for the rest of the season?

Decisions...

The great thing about this business is the ability of analyst, pundits, bloggers and pretty much everyone and anyone to have a voice. “I think Zion should (fill in the blank)."

How about we leave that decision up to Zion?

Think about the pressure he faced from friends, family, agents, “coaches”, etc.. before he even went to Duke. I’m sure there were those who asked him, why? Think about your college experience and the valuable lessons you learned and I’m not talking about the classroom. There are still some “kids,” regardless of skill level, that want that college experience. Even it’s only for one year, they’re still developing their game, but more importantly their mind. We always talk about physical ability, but constantly brush over mental ability or maturity.

All these one and done guys are not forced to go to college. There other avenues to get to the NBA but college is currently the the best route. Baseball and hockey have their minor league systems that have been proven to work. Until the NBA fully embraces the G-League, which they’re well on their way, college basketball is the best “ minor league” for the NBA. 

Let me be clear in saying that, as long as the NBA implements the “one and done rule” colleges should be giving these players some kind of payment, more than what they are currently providing these players for their services. I’m also not saying it’s the sole responsibility of the university to provide these payments. I think the NCAA should be involved in this equation, a nonprofit that made over a billion dollars last year by the way.

How much money is not only Duke, but the NCAA makeing off Zion alone? It’s definitely a slippery slope, but there has to be a better way. Just don’t ask the NCAA for the answer.

Finally, the NBA needs to do away with the one and done. Players coming out of high school should have a choice of the direction they want their athletic careers to go. I think if a high school player puts his name in the draft, but isn’t selected he should be able to go to college, on a scholarship, without penalty. I know that’s a risk for university to offer these level of players a scholarship and possibly miss out on another prospect, but I have a feeling that most of these high school kids will be accepting that offer.

I also think that player plus those already in college should be able to put their name in the draft every year, go to the combine, and make an educated choice. This is the process that is being implemented at the moment for the college players. It’s not perfect and needs some refining, but it’s better than the current system. Let’s not forget get that allowing these choices could/should damper some of this, “should he or shouldn’t he,” discussion.   

Now back to our regular scheduled programming. The last 24 games of the Bulls schedule. By the way, I’m still selecting Zion with the first-overall pick in the NBA Draft even if he has to have surgery and miss all of next season.

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