Bulls

Hamilton eager for Lakers matchup

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Hamilton eager for Lakers matchup

For Rip Hamilton, playing against Kobe Bryant is nothing new. Not just because the two play the same position and Hamilton's been in the league for 13 years, but because the two go back to their high school days in suburban Philadelphia.

"I enjoy it," said Hamilton after Friday afternoon's Bulls practice, prior to departing for Los Angeles. "It's fun because we've known each other since we were 16, playing on the same AAU team, getting an opportunity to play in high school and the 2004 NBA Finals, and still get an opportunity to compete against each other."

While matching up with Bryant isn't an easy matchup for anyone, Hamilton's picked up a few pointers over the years to have at least a modicum of success against the perennial All-Star.

"Just make it tough, on both ends," he said about his childhood friend, who he'll face on Sunday's season opener. "Just as hard as you guard him, you've got to force him to guard you. So, it's fun. It's an exciting matchup."

Hamilton also isn't buying into the talk about Bryant's ailing wrist, an injury that the Lakers superstar vowed he'd play through.

"When the ball is thrown up, a lot of guys are able to tune that out, to go ahead and compete," he said. "You can't really look at that as a disadvantage."

As far as the Lakers as a group, Hamilton does see a difference from previous seasons, as versatile forward Lamar Odom was traded to the defending-champion Mavericks and heading into Sunday, they'll also be without center Andrew Bynum, who's suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a flagrant foul in the last playoffs.

"The last couple years, they've been so great off just how big they were, with, Odom, Gasol," Hamilton opined. "So without Bynum, I know for them, it's going to be tough. But they'll adjust. They're a veteran team."

But regardless of the opponent, Hamilton is just happy to be back on a team worthy of playing in one of the league's showcase games, a Christmas Day matinee.

"It feels good to be back in a situation where people want to see you play and you've got a special chance to have a special season," he said. "It's the first game of many and we just want to be prepared to go out and try to get a win."

Bobby Portis happy with sixth-man role as extension deadline hovers

Bobby Portis happy with sixth-man role as extension deadline hovers

A reserve role suits Bobby Portis so much that his already-wide eyes got bigger when the prospect of entering a season with a defined role was broached following the Bulls’ first practice.

Wide eyes like when he pops off the bench nearing the halfway point of the first quarter. Wide eyes like when he knows shots are coming his way, and this year, those eyes are aiming for a Sixth Man of the Year award.

“It feels good,” Portis said, almost cutting off the query because he was so excited at the notion.

“It kind of made my summer easier. I knew I wasn’t fighting for a starting spot. I knew I wasn’t fighting for minutes. I just worked on my game the most I could and worked on that role.”

The start to his season was marred by his incident with Nikola Mirotic but that’s only the first line in Portis’ story as he developed and matured on the floor into a dependable contributor after languishing behind the likes of Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Mirotic his first two seasons.

So pardon him if he cuts off a question to express his joy—he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder for the first time in a long time.

“Last year they said it was make or break for me,” Portis said. “Every year I guess is make or break. I’m having fun, enjoying my teammates, trying to be more of a leader this year, lead by example. Do all the little things.”

His 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds look fine, but even on a lottery team that wasn’t focused on winning Portis established himself as a core piece and a trophy of sorts for the front office as a mark for their player development program.

He went from a power forward who wasn’t athletic enough to a matchup nightmare as a backup center, coming off the bench to launch from any and everywhere, hitting 80 3-pointers at a 36 percent clip.

“I get to come off the bench and score a lot. Who doesn’t like to score the ball? That’s a fun gig,” Portis said. “Coach has trust in me to shoot the shots I want to shoot. It’s a fun gig to have.”

With Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker and Lauri Markkanen expected to have main roles as scorers, one has to wonder if Portis will be as needed offensively—and if he isn’t, the team-first approach will be put to the test.

But this is also someone who volunteered to go to the bench last year when he saw he wasn’t quite a great fit in the first five shortly after the All-Star break.

“We were experimenting with some different lineups,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “And after I think it was after the third game he started and he came and said ‘Coach, can you put me off the bench again?’ You don’t hear that very often at this level.”

That consistency, and Portis’ overall demeanor that can possibly play a big part in this faceless team developing a true identity has led to Portis and the front office entering into discussions about a contract extension before he reaches restricted free agency.

The Bulls have until Oct. 15 to get a deal done with Portis, a prospect very much out of his hands. But the goal of being a sixth man is something very much in his hands, and should he become a top candidate it would surely mean the Bulls are in a better position than most expect.
Just in this decade alone, every award winner has played for a playoff team save for Lou Williams last season for the 42-40 L.A. Clippers.

“I really like that role,” Portis said. “I look at other guys around the league---Eric Gordon, Lou Will, guys like that. They come in and change the game. I feel I can do that for this club. It’s fun doing that.”

23 Days to Opening Night: The Greatest of All-Time

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AP

23 Days to Opening Night: The Greatest of All-Time

Need we say more?

There isn’t a number more synonymous with greatness in basketball - and maybe in all of sports - than No. 23.

We’d list of all M.J.’s accomplishments but there isn’t enough room, even on the internet.

All we know is no Bulls player (or Heat player) will ever don the No. 23 uniform again.

And honestly, once LeBron James retires, it’d be pretty cool to see the NBA retire the number for good. Now we’re just getting nostalgic. No. 23 is No. 1.