Crowded Bulls frontcourt has Bobby Portis searching for minutes

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The third-person references have stopped.

The days of Bobby Portis telling the media that he just “has to be Bobby Portis’’ have seemingly been left behind in a rookie season filled with inconsistency.

What is alive and well for the forward/center, however, is his motor.

Still full throttle down, still no shortage of running out.

That’s why the Bulls made Portis the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft. That’s also why coach Fred Hoiberg played Portis in 62 games last season, starting him in four.

But now there has to be more. There better be more.

“We’ve talked about his learning curve, just how steep it was in the last season,’’ Hoiberg said on Wednesday of Portis. “He’s a guy that works, he’s going to continue to get better. He loves watching film. You know, you keep using the word consistency, but that’s what we’re looking for.’’

And it starts with shot selection form the 6-foot-11 21-year-old. Besides being a high-energy reserve, the other strength Portis displayed in his rookie campaign was a lack of shyness.

Often, when the basketball was in his hands it was being launched toward the rim. The problem was it happened too often. Shot selection had to improve.

“For sure,’’ Portis said of being better in that department. “I’ve been trying to get into a lot of two-man situations with me and Doug [McDermott] on the same side. I feel like me and Doug work together real well. That’s something we did a lot last year, did this year. I’m looking forward to doing it a lot more. I’ve learned that playing with a guy like Doug, Jimmy [Butler], they could back-cut and I can make some passes on the back door also. Scoring isn’t one thing I want to rely on.’’

It wasn’t last year.

Besides averaging a respectable 7.0 points per game, Portis also grabbed 5.4 rebounds and registered 0.4 blocks per game.

The big question surrounding Portis in season two, however, is where will he get the minutes? Hoiberg has thrown Portis’ name out there as a starting candidate for the No. 4 spot, but he’s also battling against Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic.

Realistically, Portis is last in that competition.

“I’m just coming in being myself from Day 1,’’ Portis said. “Just coming in trying to compete for minutes. The biggest thing for me this year is trying to get some playing time. Last year I didn’t really play that much, but this year I’m looking forward to playing a lot. I don’t look at it as a competition thing with Taj and Niko. I look at it as a thing of me just going out there and being myself from Day 1.’’

Gibson started the preseason opener on Monday, while Hoiberg planned to start Mirotic at the four Thursday night in Indiana.

No word yet on when, or if, Portis will get that nod.

Robin Lopez is already penciled in as the starting center, and while Portis could also move over to that spot when the Bulls go smaller, there’s not a starting job to be grabbed there.

So that again leaves Portis on the outside looking in. Not that he minds the uphill climb.

“We have a lot of guys that are around the same age, trying to go out there and compete for minutes this year,’’ Portis said. “Me, Cris [Felicio], Niko, Taj we’re all competing for something big. At the end of the day we’re all teammates, but at the same time we’re all competitors.’’

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