Now 18 games into his tenure with the Wizards, Bobby Portis’ second return to Chicago on Wednesday night felt significantly less strange to the former Bulls fan favorite than his first did.
He drove to the arena on his own, from his Chicago home that he hasn’t sold. He rapped along to the music in his headphones in the visiting locker room. And he didn’t feel the same jitters as he did Feb. 9, when he played at the United Center only two games after being blindsided by the trade to Washington.
“Dealing with changes is always difficult for anything,” he said. “[Whether] you move from job to job or you move from state to state, change is always hard. But the coaches, management and my teammates have done a good job of welcoming me in.
“I’m proud of how I made it through this transition. It was tough for me the first couple of weeks, but after my first game [back], everything just kind of settled down.”
Portis has played well since the trade. Entering Wednesday, he’d improved his numbers compared to his 22 appearances with the Bulls this season in nearly every category: points per game (14.1 to 14.6), field-goal percentage (45.0 to 46.7), three-point percentage (37.5 to 45.6) and rebounds per game (7.3 to 8.4).
Playing with Jabari Parker on a team that technically is still in the playoff hunt — even though the Wizards will need to get hot, and get help, down the stretch to sneak in — has had something to do with it, he said.
“It’s a good city, good team to play for,” Portis said. “Obviously, we’re still fighting for something — about four games back of eighth. We could still make a push, just got to win some games.”
He also has kept in touch with his former teammates, watching the Bulls when he can on his nights off.
“My former teammates over there, they still support me, and I still support them, as well,” he said. “They always text me after good games, or if I don’t play as well, to just come out next game and be ready.”
Portis, who had 15 points in the Bulls’ 126-120 overtime victory, didn’t take it easy on his ex-mates. In the fourth quarter, he dished out a flagrant-1 foul to Lauri Markkanen, smacking him twice in the face on the play.
United Center unveils new scoreboard plans
The Bulls will play beneath the largest scoreboard in the NBA next season.
The United Center announced that an 8,600-square-foot scoreboard — four times the size of the current one, which has become increasingly outdated — will be installed before the 2019-20 season for the Bulls and Blackhawks.
The new scoreboard also will feature six moving panels and an inner-ring display. Sergio Lozano, the United Center’s senior director of scoreboard operations, said in a press release that it will offer “the opportunity to take the in-game experience to the next level.”
Lopez in best form of season
Center Robin Lopez has six 20-point games. Three of them have come in the last eight days. Lopez entered the game averaging 18.5 points and seven rebounds in his previous four games, and 16.3 points and six rebounds in his previous 19, but he was held to eight points by the Wizards.