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.”

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.