An emotional night for an emotional player ends in success for Bobby Portis originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com
The Bulls' acquisition of Otto Porter Jr. sets them up to have a talented two-way wing with elite shooting potential the next two-and-a-half seasons. But dealing for Porter wasn't free, and in acquiring Porter the Bulls were forced to give up a player Zach LaVine called "the glue of the team."
And on Saturday night Bobby Portis showed the Bulls exactly what they decided to give up, torching a Bulls group that looked like it was missing its emotional leader and captain. Portis wasn't all that efficient in the Wizards' 134-125 victory over the Bulls, but like most of this statlines his 10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists went much farther than the box score.
Portis was vocal with teammates, energetic on defense and physical inside against a Bulls team that wasn't able to show any resistance against a Wizards team that scored 70 points in the paint on 73 percent shooting. The Bulls should have expected this from Portis, a player who takes even preseason practices personally. LaVine told reporters earlier in the week that one text from Portis after the trade told him to "be ready" for Saturday.
The Bulls looked anything but. In a game that should have featured a few scuffles, some pushes and shoves or at the very least some verbal back-and-forths, Portis, Jabari Parker and the Wizards were too busy scoring. The only real jawing between Portis and any Bulls was after the 23-year-old blocked a Wayne Selden layup attempt at the end of the first quarter. A few members of the Bulls, including LaVine, chirped back but that was as far as it went.
"I feel like I'm playing some good basketball right now," Portis said. "My confidence is back. It's fun to play and compete and knowing we have a goal in making the playoffs."
The Bulls may have made the better long-term decision in dealing Portis and his expiring contract to the Wizards for Porter. But Portis was hell-bent on showing his old team exactly what they were missing in the short-term. It came on the heels of a turbulent 72 hours for Portis, who earlier in the season said he hoped to be a Bull for life.
Portis and teammates alike were surprised that he was moved prior to Thursday's trade deadline. Portis admitted Saturday that he had seen some rumors on Twitter, and with the Bulls rebuilding and failing to commit long-term to him – a restricted free agent this summer – there were logical scenarios in which Portis could have been moved.
"I took it really tough. I didn't see it coming. I was seeing all the things on Twitter. People kept @-ing me. I thought it was just rumors and stories," Portis said. "I never thought I would get traded. But it's basketball. I think I did a good job of just taking it the right way and moving on. I'm with an organization now that really likes me."
But that didn't lessen the shock value Portis had when 30 minutes before tipoff on Wednesday he learned that he had been dealt to the Wizards. He left the United Center without speaking to reporters and took a few social media jabs at the Bulls in the lead-up to his Wizards debut, when he scored 30 points in a win over the Cavaliers.
He didn't replicate those numbers on Saturday but was active on the glass, posting his first double-double since Jan. 25, and helped close out the Bulls in the final period with a couple of baskets around the rim, including a three-point play that resulted in a classic Portis celebration scream under the basket. After starting 1 of 5 he finished 3 of 6 and blocked two shots for the first time since Oct. 22.
But Portis was much more reserved in the postgame media session, relishing his time in Chicago. He was emotional while watching a video tribute the Bulls presented during the first quarter and said he was grateful for the lessons he learned in his first four seasons as a pro.
"Everything comes full circle. I don't have anything bad to say about anybody here. Everybody treated me really well, with open arms," Portis said. "They treated me like family here. This is a great place to play for any player who wants to come play here. They treat you family. That's what I'll always remember."
Portis experienced his highs and lows in Chicago but he'll be remembered for the same energy he displayed Saturday. He wanted to stay in Chicago but will have an opportunity in Washington to earn the kind of contract he felt he deserved – and one the Bulls weren't willing to fork over.
He isn't in a spotlight role in Washington but he's also not handcuffed behind a 21-year-old face of the franchise. After 30 points in his debut and a double-double in the second act, Portis is well on his way to reclaiming his status as one of the game's better reserves. Including Saturday he's now averaging 19.7 points and 7.5 in his last seven games and looks more like the player who dominated in stretches than the one who battled through serious knee and ankle injuries earlier this season in Chicago.
He's a new man in the nation's capital but at his core is still up to his old ways. Free Bobby Portis?
"Yeah," he said with a laugh. "I'm free now."