CHICAGO – Rest assured, the drama doesn’t end here.
Nikola Mirotic, probably, will share the same practice court and game floor that is occupied by the man who punched him in a practice altercation on October 17th. That first practice will be a significant moment along with the first time they hit the floor together.
These are still “ifs” since there is a chance Mirotic is dealt before he recovers, but should it happen it will mark another moment in which Bobby Portis will become the focus of the Bulls again.
Already one of those has come to pass – his debut in the 2017-2018 season. That was Tuesday night, as Portis returned to the lineup for 24 minutes as a reserve behind Lauri Markkanen, who took over his starting spot after his eight-game ban.
“I tried to make the simple play,” said Portis of his debut on Tuesday in Toronto. “Just tried to make the right basketball play at all times.”
He did that.
Portis made the most of his time as a reserve with 21 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. A lot of that was done in the fourth quarter, when the Bulls took a 17-point deficit and cut it to three on a Portis turnaround in the final minute. It didn’t end of working out – the Bulls lost by five – but the third-year forward’s debut left an impression.
“I do think Bobby did a really good job of making simple plays,” said head coach Fred Hoiberg of Portis. “I wish all of our guys would have had that mindset.”
He would have been proud of Portis’ attitude the morning after his debut, too. The forward dismissed the stats, more upset over the team’s seventh loss in nine games. Yet it wasn’t just the result that was the satisfaction in his first game after the suspension, it was simply the game itself.
“I was just happy to play basketball again, man. I hadn’t played ball for three weeks, having to practice and watching my teammates on TV, watch them play, me having to cheer from afar,” said Portis. “That’s the biggest thing for me, just go out there and just be able to live my dream again, like I said yesterday. I got it taken away from me and I don’t want it to get taken away from me again.”
He missed the game action so much that Portis admitted to playing pick-up games set up by his agent in River Forest and Maywood during the suspension just to keep his instincts sound.
“Even when I wasn’t playing my first two years I still played pick-up, just tried to stay in shape because there’s nothing like playing ball, 5-on-5,” said Portis. “You’ve got to hit a body or two just to feel the contact. That’s a different type of shape.”
Won’t be much need for that now since he’ll see his fair share of time off the bench and maybe in the starting lineup for the rest of the season. Everything isn’t quite back to normal, that’s for sure, but at the moment everything is happy when it comes to No. 5.
“You could tell, he was really excited to get back out there on the floor, his teammates were excited to have him back,” said Hoiberg. “Again, the impressive part, that first game in the regular season especially you have a lot of butterflies but bobby went out there and made an immediate impact, a positive impact, and that’s what we need.”
He can’t say that enough after a bizarre start to the 2017-2018 season.