Bulls: 'Crazy Eyes Portis' embracing his nickname -- and being the younger brother


Bulls: 'Crazy Eyes Portis' embracing his nickname -- and being the younger brother

When Bobby Portis enters a game at the United Center, the fans sitting with a closer view of Michael Jordan’s banner will have a clear view of the rookie’s eyes—because they can’t be missed.

“This is me – Crazy Eyes Portis,” the long-armed athletic forward said. “I'm going to be bugging out there. I'm going to try to play as hard as possible.”

Before anybody else can dish out the nickname, Portis is laying full claim to it, considering the comparisons that have stemmed from noticeable pupils have ranged from former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress to former NBA player Darius Miles to current Los Angeles Laker Roy Hibbert.

Brooklyn Net Joe Johnson brought up the Miles comparison, back from their days in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“Everyone always tells me that I look like him (Burress), and that I look like Roy Hibbert. I hope I don’t, though,” he said.

Let’s just say he’s not a fan of any, so Crazy Eyes Portis will have to do for the moment.

“I'm just taking that nickname from what everybody else is calling me,” Portis said. “Everyone always talks about my eyes being bugged and everything. That's something I'm going to take and run with. I like that name.”

[MORE: Jimmy Butler setting the tone early in Bulls training camp]

Nicknames in the NBA can be derived as a hazing technique before becoming a term of endearment, and considering Portis has always been the older brother, following the lead of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson in the frontcourt appeals to him.

“Joakim for sure. He’s like the big brother I never had,” Portis said. “Growing up I was always the oldest. I never had a big brother. He’s been there pushing me so far, reminding me everything I do should be hard and tenacious. I kind of feed off of his energy, and both of us try and bring the team up a little bit.”

Walking the streets of Chicago, he’s fairly recognizable, so the attention, the fast pace of the big city and yes, the traffic, is new to him. But the effort that’s required to play inside the lines of the court translates from the dirt roads to air-conditioned gyms with 30-somethings and the big eyes of evaluation watching his every move.

“I love it. That’s something I bring each and every day,” Portis said. “That’s one of my biggest qualities, playing hard. If I can just keep continuing to play hard like I do, I feel like our team will be good.”

[RELATED: Joakim Noah wants another shot at pairing with Pau Gasol]

And good veteran teams traditionally don’t just have minutes laid out for late first-round picks, especially in a crowded frontcourt where consistent time is almost impossible to guarantee.

“All of us are competing, you know. Me, Taj, Joakim, Pau and Mirotic – we’re all competing,” Portis said. “We’re all trying to fight for those minutes. We’re all trying to play the big role and help our team be successful. It’s not about backing down. It’s about stepping up and making your teammates better.”

The uncertainty of playing time aside, he’s treating the new experience with the utmost seriousness, as his crazy eyes will tell you before his lips part to tell you.

“I’ve been getting up every morning trying to get here first to make a good impression,” Portis said. “This is my first job ever. I’m 20 years old and I haven’t worked anywhere but here. I think it's a great job to have.”

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.