Like most young players finding their footing in the NBA, Bobby Portis has had his ups and downs through his first two seasons. Now playing the best basketball of his career, Portis spoke with reporters on Monday about some of those difficult stretches, including a one-day D-League assignment in early January.
Portis described the assignment as confusing, noting that he "didn’t understand why I had to go down. At the same time I knew it was all for a reason."
Three days later Michael Carter-Williams, who was available Saturday after missing four straight games with a knee injury, spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times and admitted he wasn’t sure what role he was returning to. As one of five point guards on the now-healthy 15-man roster, Carter-Williams said the point-guard rotation had him "a little confused.”
Neither of those comments sat well with head coach Fred Hoiberg, who said prior to Saturday’s game against the Clippers that both players are fully aware of their roles on the team. He showed some irritation in responding to both stories, clarifying that he had spoken with both Portis and Carter-Williams.
"Let me talk about Bobby first. He and I had a good conversation before he went down to the D-League (on Jan. 6). He knew exactly why he was going down there," Hoiberg said. "He and I talked about, after I saw something in the media last week, he said, 'Coach, I meant nothing about that. I don't know how that came across.' He and I had that discussion. We talked about sending him back to the D-League a second time but after sitting down and talking with him we decided against it because he was going back into the rotation quickly."
Portis scored 32 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Windy City Bulls' victory on Jan. 6. He had been a DNP-CD in seven of the previous nine games, and only played a combined 5 minutes in the other two contests. He didn't play Jan. 7 after returning to the team, but then appeared in the next seven games.
"With Bobby, he said, 'Coach, I promise you I meant nothing by that," Hoiberg reiterated. "I don't know if something was taken out of context or what it was."
Portis is now a mainstay in the rotation, taking over the starting power forward job after Taj Gibson was dealt at the trade deadline. In his last seven games he's averaged 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 23.0 minutes.
Carter-Williams had started seven of the previous eight games before the injury. Jerian Grant has started in his absence, with Rajon Rondo running the second unit. While Carter-Williams sat the Bulls acquired Cameron Payne from Oklahoma City. Isaiah Canaan hasn’t played signifncant minutes since Feb. 12 but remains healthy on the roster.
"I talked with Michael yesterday. Biggest thing we talked about because we've had two very good conversations the previous two days, I want to make sure we're clear on everything we've got going on right now. He said, 'Absolutely. We're 100 percent clear,'" Hoiberg said. "So again we've just got to keep trying to do the best we can communicating and hopefully we get the message across.
"Michael said basically that he repeated a question (to the reporter) and the word 'confused' came up, but he said that he does not have any confusion. So you talk to them about it, use it as a learning experience and hopefully it doesn't happen again."
Earlier in the year Rondo expressed frustration about not knowing why he had been taken out of the rotation when he was a DNP-CD for five games in December and January. Rondo has since rejoined the rotation, taking command of the second unit after beginning the year as the starting point guard.