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.”

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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.”

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction


Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks


Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”