Bulls: Bobby Portis ready to make himself a Chicago mainstay


Bulls: Bobby Portis ready to make himself a Chicago mainstay

Wearing a grey suit with a light grey vest and dark red tie—a tie that could be described as Arkansas red as much as Bulls red, Bobby Portis brought donuts to the media contingent upon introduction to his newly adopted city.

But the Bulls first-round draft pick made sure to let everyone know the flash and snazzy dressing was only in the presentation and not in the attitude.

“Low maintenance, high-character,” Portis described himself, in between bouts of speaking of himself in the third person, the 22nd pick in last week’s draft that wasn’t supposed to be available.

The Bulls hadn’t zeroed in on him before the draft, choosing a strict adherence to their draft board, and hadn’t even brought him to the Advocate Center for a workout—his agents wouldn’t allow it, seeing no need for Portis to fall anywhere near the 20s.

“Once it got past 19, the (Washington) Wizards were the last team I worked out for. I didn’t know where it would fall,” said Portis before adding, “I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

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Perhaps it was a lack of defined position that scared other teams away in the draft, as the versatile Portis can play anything from small forward to center in a changing league.

“I feel like I don’t have a position,” Portis said. “I do a lot of different things. I’m a combo power-forward center.”

But the Bulls did get a chance to view him work out at famed trainer Tim Grover’s gym on the west side some time ago, which only confirmed what they saw on the game film: a top-15 talent with a motor unlike many others in college basketball.

The SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore, a “self-made McDonald’s All-American” as described by Mike Anderson, his college coach in attendance Monday, let his game grow organically in two years at Arkansas.

Still, Portis proudly says he has  a chip on his shoulder—but his disposition is one of a man eager to learn and work his way up the ladder.

“As a kid I wasn’t the most talented,” Portis said. “I didn’t have the skills a lot of the other kids have. My passion uplifts my teammates. I make them play hard like I do. I got that from my mom. Be a garbage man. Get it off the glass.”

[RELATED: Bobby Portis a 'unanimous decision' for Bulls front office]

His mom, a basketball player in her own right, sat quietly to the side while her eldest son addressed the media. Portis’ energy and passion derived from wanting to be the next guy out of Little Rock, Arkansas to make it. Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson and New York Knicks coach (former Lakers guard) Derek Fisher were the only two to make big names of themselves from Bill Clinton’s hometown, Portis said.

“I wanted to be that guy my brothers and other kids can look up to,” Portis said. “Now I have to make myself that better basketball player.”

He wants to add his name to the ledger, and proclaimed the city of the Chicago will be happy to see him for the next “12, 13 years.” Playing behind proven veterans Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, it’ll be hard, if not impossible to guarantee playing time but Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg isn’t coming in with preconceived notions.

“Summer League is great opportunity to come in,” Hoiberg said. “Once camp starts in the fall, the way I operate is going into camp with an open mind. It’s the way I worked as a player and the way I’ll work as a coach. He’s got great vets to learn from.”

The next task isn’t too daunting for Portis, who seems to fit the blueprint of many players the Bulls have brought in during recent years.

“If I come in and do the things I do well, I’ll get the minutes I deserve,” Portis said. “I’ve always outworked everybody. It’s what got me here.”

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers, and tonight helped further confirm this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including 4 offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob", Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what Boylen is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished the Bulls win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

After getting a look at each point guard in the starting lineup this preseason, Jim Boylen finally got a look at what appears to be his starting lineup for Opening Night. 

Tomas Satoransky started as the point next to Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. That group was down 10-7 when Carter subbed out at the 8:36 mark but looked better in later stints in the game. 

Carter was noticeably slow on his first step on his defense, specifically on plays where Raptors center Chris Boucher was able to use his speed and length advantage to finish at the rim. But he was solid on the glass, even chipping in on the offensive rebounding side of things, grabbing 3 offensive boards in the first half alone. 

Carter was clearly re-adjusting to the speed of NBA basketball and as play-by-play broadcaster Stacey King noted during the game, he "just doesn't have his legs underneath him." He was 1-6 from the floor, struggling to get lift as he went up for putback layups around the basket. 

That being said, he was decent, more so on the defensive side of the floor where he became more active as the game wore on.

In his 16-minutes stint, Carter posted 10 points, 7 rebounds, an assist and a block, while picking up 3 personal fouls. 

Outside of Carter's return stint, the Bulls new-look starting group looked solid and offers hope as we approach the start of the NBA regular season.