Bulls

Bulls rookie Bobby Portis making early impression on Fred Hoiberg

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Bulls rookie Bobby Portis making early impression on Fred Hoiberg

By Brian Howell

Special contributor to CSNChicago.com

BOULDER, Colo. – Finding minutes during the regular season might be difficult for Bobby Portis.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the rookie won’t be an important part of the Bulls roster this season.

Already the first-round pick from Arkansas has impressed head coach Fred Hoiberg.

“I love the kid’s energy,” Hoiberg said prior to the Bulls’ 112-94 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Coors Events Center on the University of Colorado campus. “He plays so hard.

“I think we really got a player at (draft pick) No. 22.”

[SHOP: Buy a Bobby Portis jersey]

As long as the Bulls stay healthy, Portis may have to wait for his time to shine. The 6-foot-11 forward is battling Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson in the frontcourt for minutes, but Portis said he’s eager to learn from his veteran teammates.

“They’ve taken me under their wings thus far in the preseason, just trying to teach me the ropes in everything I’m doing,” Portis said.

Hoiberg believes Portis can return the favor by having a positive impact on his teammates, too. 

“As hard as he plays, he’s going to make a big impact regardless of how many minutes he’s playing because of the fact he can push our starters,” Hoiberg said.

Hoiberg believes Portis can help the Bulls on game nights, too.

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“I would have absolutely zero issues putting Bobby in a game right now,” Hoiberg said.

Either way, Portis said he’ll make the best of whatever role he has to play this season.

“I entered the draft because I wanted to come in and show what I can do on the NBA level,” he said. “Now I’m just trying to play a role for this basketball team. My role is to come in for a guy and a big energy guy, just to bring some positive energy off the bench and play my role, which is being a dog out there on the basketball court.”

So far, the dog has looked good on the boards. After pulling down 14 rebounds in 23 minutes against Milwaukee on Tuesday, he had 10 points and 16 rebounds against the Nuggets. He’s had seven offensive rebounds in each game.

Portis has struggled with his shot, though. He went 2-for-12 against Milwaukee and 3-for-10 against Denver. Hoiberg is confident Portis’ shot will come, though, and he did show his range by knocking down a 3-pointer against Denver.

“I’m a guy that plays with a lot of energy and I’m just trying to go out there and try to do some things I do well,” he said. 

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.