DETROIT – Bobby Portis is going to have to be better.
While Bulls rookies haven’t been counted on much the last five years, the season-ending shoulder injury to Joakim Noah has changed things. Especially for Portis.
Like he did in the nine games Noah missed three weeks ago, Portis becomes the all-important fourth big in Fred Hoiberg’s frontcourt. A role he not only accepted the first time around, but excelled in, averaging 7.7 points and seven rebounds per game when Noah was on the shelf.
Since Noah’s return on Jan. 11, however, as well as Monday – the first game since it was announced Noah would have season-ending surgery – Portis has regressed a bit.
“I thought he was pressing a little bit,’’ Hoiberg said of Portis’ recent play. “I don’t know what his mindset was going into those games with Jo coming back, but the reality right now is Bobby is obviously going to be a huge part of the future of this franchise. Just go out and play minutes, play through mistakes, which maybe we’d have a little less of that if Jo was out there in the lineup. We’re obviously going to need Bobby to play well if we’re going to have a good year.’’
The good news for Portis is he will be given his chances.
With Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson starting, Portis and Nikola Mirotic will be counted on to anchor that second unit, which means Portis could also expect some time at center. He wasn’t needed on Monday, playing only three minutes and grabbing just two rebounds, as Hoiberg used a three-guard attack more than usual and wasn’t ready to throw Portis into that center spot just yet.
“We’ll have to get creative with the lineup,’’ Hoiberg said. “Bobby’s going to have to get some minutes at the five.’’
Maybe Wednesday, with Golden State coming to the United Center.
Hoiberg also said that Portis is going to have to start making adjustments. The rookie was able to sneak up on some teams early on, but now there’s film on him.
“I think with Bobby the big thing is teams know him now,’’ Hoiberg said. “They know he’s a guy that can score. Before he was an unknown a little bit. So I think that’s a lot of it. Teams understand who Bobby is.’’
Red, white and Butler
Jimmy Butler might still be coached by Tom Thibodeau very soon.
Butler was named as one of the 30 finalists for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball roster, which will again be coached by Mike Krzyzewski, as well as his staff, which Thibodeau is still a part of.
Joining Butler in that pool are the likes of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.
Derrick Rose pulled himself out of the pool last summer, despite playing for Team USA during the FIBA World Cup.
“It’s very well deserved,’’ Hoiberg said. “It’s a testament to his work ethic.’’