Bobby Portis is an irritant.
Whether it’s running down the court flexing his chest after a key play, a subtle shove into the chest of an opposing player, or some oldfashioned trash talking, Portis has become a master of getting under a player’s skin in his third season in the NBA.
And he has not just been irritating his opponents.
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Ask former teammate Nikola Mirotic, who started the season in concussion protocol after his altercation with Portis in practice on Oct. 17, resulting in Portis punching the forward in the face and breaking two bones.
By all accounts, both players were aggressors, with Mirotic having enough of Portis’ trash talk to step toward him before he was hit.
Portis is now back to just frustrating opposing players with his antics. And if he can continue to be an offensive force like he was in Thursday night’s 116-115 loss to the Sixers, the Bulls might have a key rotation player for years to come.
Portis played 34 minutes against the Sixers, shooting 15-for-26 from the field with a career-high 38 points, while letting his opponents know they couldn’t stop him.
“I love it,’’ David Nwaba said Friday, when asked about Portis’ antics. “We need that. It builds momentum. Brings energy and we feed off it. That’s what he’s been doing all season long for us. We expect it from Bobby.’’
The final 24 games are not only huge for Portis but the entire front office, as it looks to identify future pieces worth keeping and building around. Obviously, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine are three instrumental building blocks for the starting unit, but the bench is still up in the air.
Portis, who is averaging 13 points and 6.4 rebounds, has proven that he can be counted on moving forward.
Nwaba threw his name in the hat back in December with his play on both ends of the floor. Denzel Valentine has made strides but remains inconsistent.
Portis, though, might be the most intriguing.
Like Joakim Noah used to be for the Bulls, Portis isn’t exactly in the business of making a ton of friends around the league.
“I just play my game and don’t really worry about how others feel about me, unless they’re my teammates,’’ Portis said last month.
Even after the loss to the Sixers, Portis was seen sporting custom designed tennis shoes that had “Crazy Eyes’’ written on them. Noah nicknamed Portis “crazy eyes’’ as a rookie and it has stuck.
“People used to joke around all the time about it, but now I’m making it into something I like,’’ Portis said about embracing the nickname. “My eyes do get crazy, and I never know what they’re going to do.’’
Fred Hoiberg feels he has a good idea of what his forward is really about.
“I love Bobby’s approach,’’ Hoiberg said. “As far as talking about polite, good guys in your locker room, I put Bobby up there with any of them. He’s such a good kid, ‘Yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am.’ He’s just a really good kid that plays with an edge and plays with an aggressiveness that you have to have on your roster.’’
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