Bulls

Michael Jordan pays tribute to Kobe Bryant with farewell message

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Michael Jordan pays tribute to Kobe Bryant with farewell message

It's a rarity for Michael Jordan, perhaps sports' greatest competitor, to dole out compliments.

But with Kobe Bryant making his final trip to Charlotte, the city of the team that drafted him, Jordan couldn't help but pay tribute to one of the game's other all-time greats.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The team ran a 90-second video of Jordan thanking Bryant for his contributions to basketball and wishing him well in whatever he chose after his career was over. 

"I just want to congratulate you on an unbelievable NBA career. I think when I look back, and the first time we actually played against each other and the competitive drive that I saw within your eyes, even though the knowledge wasn’t quite there yet, it was very invigorating. And I’m very happy to leave you this message to say how much we are very proud of what you have accomplished over the years.

Most people don’t realize you were drafted by (the) Charlotte Hornets, so that connects us with you. I’ve always been like a big brother, and you’re like a little brother, we communicate all the time. I just wanted to say congratulations. Your next step and your career is going to be something that I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to figure out, from the competitive standpoint I’m pretty sure you’re just like me. You’re going to have to find other ways to utilize that competitive drive. But I want to congratulate you and Vanessa and the girls. You’ve been a big help to the game of basketball. You helped the NBA, you helped promote it, I’m pretty sure you’ve got a lot of fans all over the world.

I am a big fan. I still love watching you play. I’m very, very happy for you and what you’ve accomplished within the game and I look forward to seeing what you do next. If you ever need me, you know my number. Let’s stay in touch. I wish you the best and have a great game tonight – not too good of a game. But I want you to stay healthy. As I said a couple weeks ago, this is your last year. Just have fun, take it a day at a time, enjoy it and I look forward to seeing what you do after this. Take care. Good luck."

Last week Bryant named Jordan one of the five greatest players he played against.

Real recognize real.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.