When Bobby Portis knocked out Nikola Mirotic in practice before the start of the season, I feared that the controversy would swallow the young big man. I was worried that he’d find himself in too deep, get inside his own head and that it would ultimately effect what he’s able to do on the court. From there, the coaching staff would lose faith in him, begin giving his minutes away and the front office would look to deal him along with his sparring partner at the deadline.
It’s weird to look back now at “the incident” as the start of peak Bobby Portis. The third year player out of Arkansas has come into this season with the most confidence in his individual game than anyone outside of Zach LaVine. Ol’ crazy eyes has been straight flexing since that eight game suspension ended. He’s been so good (and so mature about this whole thing) that he’s even discovered his nitch under Fred Hoiberg as a do it all second unit scoring machine.
And I would’ve said all of that before Thursday nights contest against the Sixers. Now I want to scream it from the mountain tops.
If knocking out Niko was the start of peak Bobby Portis, the official start of the “John Paxson tank” was his coming out party as a legit piece in the NBA:
In 34 minutes, Portis out performed The Process to the tune of 38 points (15-26 from the field, 6-9 from three), eight rebounds and two assists. In a game where the Bulls decided to DNP Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday in favor of stubbornly starting Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba in their place, it was Portis that decided that it was his time to finally shine in a Bulls uniform:
Was he impressed with himself?
“No, I scored 30 like five times in college,” he said. “I scored 40 a lot in high school, like 20 times. Me scoring doesn’t really matter. I’m just trying to help this basketball team win. I’m not a selfish player at all, but scoring 38 does feel good.”
Portis was already an emotional leader on this team; after all, you don’t just punch your teammate in the face if you’re of calm mind. But the flexing and the yelling and pure energy that’s always been a major part of his game looks like it’s finally melding together with all of the work he put into this offseason to fine tune every aspect of his offensive game.
Will Portis do this every night? Of course not. But, will he do it more times than not? Honestly, I think so.
And that’s what this is all about. Whether the Bulls ended up winning that game last night or not, benching Holiday and Lopez is not only to benefit the tank. It’s also a necessary evil that allows guys like Portis to get the appropriate amount of time for DougPax and Co. to clearly evaluate their NBA talent.
And damnit if we don’t have ourselves an electric factory ready to lead the future, contending Bench Mob Deep.