PORTLAND, Ore. -- Bobby Portis made his presence felt in his second game back in the Bulls’ lineup.
With 2.3 seconds remaining in the first half of the Bulls’ 124-112 Wednesday loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Zach LaVine drew a shooting foul against Evan Turner. While officials reviewed the play to see how many free throws LaVine would shoot, Portis got in Turner’s face. He had attempted to set a screen on Turner before the foul, and Turner reacted with a shove.
The two were separated before things could escalate, but the presence of Portis and the fire that he brings was a welcome sight for a Bulls team that has been without it for much of this season. He missed the previous seven games with a sprained right ankle before returning to action in Sunday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets, scoring 17 points off the bench while being held to a 20-minute limit.
The confrontation with Turner woke Portis up on Wednesday, and he scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point range.
“It felt good to see some shots go down,” Portis told NBC Sports Chicago after the game. “I’m happy to be back out there helping my team as much as I can. I just wanted to do what I do on a nightly basis.”
This season has not gone as planned for Portis. At the start of the season, his representatives and the Bulls’ front office failed to reach an agreement on an extension to his rookie contract, which will make him a restricted free agent on July 1.
Portis elected to bet on himself to have a breakout year and cash out on the open market, but his season has been hampered by injuries. Five games into the season, he suffered a sprained right MCL that caused him to miss 23 games. He returned to action on Dec. 10 in a loss to the Sacramento Kings, but played in just five games before suffering the ankle injury that kept him out until Sunday.
Now, Portis is trying to salvage a season that has been disappointing for reasons out of his control.
“Obviously, injuries are a part of life,” Portis said. “You can’t really control it. All I can do is when I get hurt, work as hard as I can to get back on the court. That’s what I’ve done up to this point. Obviously I want to be out there each and every game, to go hard for my team and for the organization. I’ve had a couple of setbacks, but I’m happy to be back out there playing the game.”
In his fourth season in the NBA, Portis has embraced his role as an energy scorer off the bench. He’ll never shy away from taking a shot, and he’s tenacious on the glass at both ends. In that regard, he’s picked up right where he left off before the ankle injury.
“I thought his poise was great,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “He dropped his knees on his shot. His shoot looked smooth. He was in rhythm. He’s an inside-outside threat, and we love that. He’s still getting his sea legs on his closeouts, which will take awhile. But we need him to be a two-way player for us, so he’ll have a lot of responsibility.”
That two-way impact has been a work in progress throughout Portis’ career. With the Bulls sitting at 10-31 on the season and simply hoping at this point to see some development from their core of young players, Portis wants to continue to become more consistent on the defensive end of the floor.
“I’ve been getting better,” Portis said. “When I first came into the league, I was just an offensive player. I just wanted to put the ball in the hole. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned the tricks of the trade, the defensive schemes that the Chicago Bulls want to run. I’ve learned it all now. I’m just trying to grasp as much as possible.”