Almost everybody thought the Bulls would go to one of the pretty boys in this supposed wide-open spread the floor era ushered in by Fred Hoiberg taking residence on the sidelines.
But with the selection of Arkansas’ Bobby Portis, they went to the equivalent of picking up an offensive lineman, one of the grimy players in the draft, perhaps a signal they won’t stray too far from their roots — roots that have made them one of the more formidable teams in the East since the turn of the decade.
The partnership between Hoiberg and Gar Forman, men with similar roots, seemed to be in agreement on the selection of Portis. Hoiberg has front office experience from his time in Minnesota, so he was able to toss in his input, probably a little more than the average coach.
“I gave input that I saw, I do feel like I had a voice,” Hoiberg said. “And again I think we all came to the conclusion that we had a good group together, there were a couple guys there that we would have been very comfortable taking but as Portis kept falling down the line it was a great pick for us.”
While his lottery talent appealed to the Bulls, his draft standing didn’t have any bearings on his style, which should fit right into what the Bulls do.
“I’m a guy who has a lot of energy, who goes 100 percent on every possession, every loose ball,” said Portis on a phone call with the media. “That’s the thing that got me here, my hard work. I can’t stop working.”
Perhaps it wasn’t lost on Forman and John Paxson, the sight of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson bullying the Bulls on the glass in the second round of the playoffs several weeks ago, a six-game series loss that ended ugly on the Bulls’ home floor.
It wasn’t lost on anybody that the average age of the Bulls’ main bigs (Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson) will be 31.6 years old on opening night come October, though Forman insisted actual needs will be filled via free agency and trades.
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The Bulls general manager insisted taking the best player available was the only thing on the Bulls’ agenda, and Hoiberg saw first hand what Portis could do when Portis’ Arkansas squad was waxed by Hoiberg’s Iowa State team this season.
“He was 6-of-7 in the first half, ended up with 19 points, I believe, eight or 10 rebounds and was a guy that can hurt you from both inside and out,” Hoiberg said.
Portis said his team wasn’t ready to play that day, but Hoiberg was impressed nonetheless, an attitude he’ll have to bring to a locker room with a bunch of veterans and solid frontcourt players.
“I like Fred Hoiberg. He lets his players play,” Portis said. “If you can do something, he’ll let you do it. If you can dribble, he’ll let you dribble as a big. He’ll let you show your versatility and everything.”
The Forman-Hoiberg relationship appears to be off to a successful start, but then again, every early relationship has its honeymoon period that lasts until the first conflict.
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But Bulls fans are likely somewhat relieved to see the franchise hasn’t completely laid waste to the tenets that made it successful — taking a talented player yes, but also one who’ll dish out a few scars in practices.