Reporters saw a different Jabari Parker on Wednesday. He was thoughtful, insightful, even flashing a bit of humor — a far cry from the player who showed little respect for the media earlier this season, ducking out of postgame news conferences or giving one-word answers.
But he’s the Wizards’ problem now.
Twenty minutes before the Bulls and Pelicans tipped off their game at the United Center, the Bulls traded Parker and key reserve Bobby Portis to the Wizards, getting sharpshooter Otto Porter Jr. in return.
With the trade deadline coming up at 2 p.m. Thursday, the move was a surprise — especially if your name is Portis.
Parker had been shopped for months, and the Wizards’ catastrophic payroll situation was screaming for them to throw salary — in this case Porter’s — overboard as soon as possible.
But Portis? He was the poster boy of what Bulls coach Jim Boylen has been preaching: hard-nosed, coachable and willing to bleed for the Bulls logo on his jersey. Last week he reiterated how much he loves the franchise: “I was at that [2015 playoff game] against LeBron [James] when [Derrick Rose] hit that game-winner, and I was like, ‘Man, I want to be a Bull.’ ”
Portis was drafted a few months later in the first round, 22nd overall out of Arkansas. But when he turned down a contract extension last fall, preferring to try to increase his value before becoming a restricted free agent, his cost uncertainty made him moveable.
“Well, it’s the business,” Parker said Wednesday, minutes after news of the trade broke. “It’s just surprising to me because Bobby is quote-unquote ‘the leader,’ the captain of our team, and just a guy that they loved. For him to get moved is obviously bitter, but hey, that’s just how it goes.”
Parker wasn’t surprised to be traded himself. Signed last July for two years, $40 million, with a team option for next season, he showed up to camp out of shape and was disastrous on defense. He lost his starting job, and when Boylen took over as coach upon Fred Hoiberg’s firing on Dec. 3, Parker lost playing time altogether for a while. The former Simeon High School standout has been the subject of trade rumors since November.
“I never have regrets,” Parker said. “I grew from this experience, me personally. From a situation that was tricky, I did what I could to grow.
“For the [Bulls] team, we have some great talent. I can’t speak on my situation, but be consistent with guys. Give them the opportunity to grow. Give them the chance they have to be free on the floor.”
Porter, the No. 3 pick of the 2013 draft, brings proven shot-making ability, but he doesn’t come cheap. In making this deal, the Bulls have acquired a commitment. Porter is making $26 million this season and will make $27.2 million next season. On top of that, he has a player option of $28.5 million for the 2020-21 season. So, like it or not, he’s the Bulls’ starting small forward for possibly the next two-plus seasons.
Porter gives the Bulls a legitimate outside scorer, which they’ve been missing since Nikola Mirotic was traded last year. His best season was 2017-18, when he averaged 14.7 points but shot 44 percent from three-point range. He’s also an above-average defender, but he does have some injury concerns.
Meanwhile, Parker’s No. 1 concern is starting a new chapter in Washington.
“I’m grateful for a chance to play somewhere, good minutes,” he said.
Bulls players were instructed not to talk about the trade after the loss to the Pelicans, but that didn’t stop Zach LaVine.
“It just sucks,’’ LaVine said. “I learned early in the NBA though, some of my best friends got traded. Bobby is pretty much the glue of the team, big-time voice. And Jabari, it sucks he didn’t get the way he wanted to come here as a Chicago kid, I don’t think he got the fair end of the stick on that one.’’
“We are excited to add Otto Porter to our team,” general manager Gar Forman said in release issued after the game. ”During his time in the NBA, Otto has proven to be a terrific three-point shooter., while also being very efficient. While in his sixth pro season, he is only 25 years old and is someone who will be a good fit for our team moving forward.”