Bulls beat Rockets as veteran Otto Porter Jr. has a throwback performance

Guard Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 23 points in the preseason victory, but Porter turned in a vintage performance with 12 points and seven boards.

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For the time being, the Bulls and Otto Porter Jr. need each other.

For the time being, the Bulls and Otto Porter Jr. need each other.

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Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. has no idea how this season will end for him, but it undoubtedly will end his time with the Bulls.

Porter picked up his $28.4 million player option during the abbreviated offseason, and every indication is that the new front-office regime happily will allow him to jump into a talented free-agent pool after the season. Until then, however, both sides need each other.

Porter needs to show he can stay healthy and re-establish himself as a piece that still can help a team on both ends of the floor, and the Bulls need him to help teach a relatively young core how to start playing winning basketball.

Porter definitely lived up to his end of the bargain in the Bulls’ 104-91 preseason victory Sunday against the Rockets.

Zach LaVine was in midseason form, scoring a team-high 23 points, but Porter looked like the player the Bulls acquired from the Wizards at the trade deadline in 2019, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

No big deal? Considering the Rockets blew out the Bulls 48 hours earlier, it was progress new coach Billy Donovan wanted to see.

Not only did the offense accept the motion and cutting he is preaching, but the defense seemed more committed to making the Rockets less comfortable. The Rockets made 24 three-pointers in the preseason opener Friday, but they were held to just 12-for-47 behind the arc in the rematch.

After playing 19 minutes Friday, Porter played 24 minutes Sunday. Expect that number to continue to climb in the last two preseason games, with Donovan making sure Porter gets in shape but also understanding the injury-plagued 2019-20 season Porter went through.

‘‘Knock on wood, Otto has been good,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I think coming in a few weeks before training camp started was good. He’s gotten kind of his legs under him. He’s practiced every day. I think he continues to get in better and better shape, but I think, based on his history and his past, we want to make sure we’re monitoring what we’re doing with him.’’

There was some preseason speculation Porter might start the regular season coming off the bench so that the Bulls could have a bit more control over his minutes, but Donovan opted not to go that route. An infection in his left leg has kept forward Thad Young out of action, so that decision was made easier.

Either way, Porter has said he would accept any role he’s given.

‘‘Out there on the court, I just want to feel my best,’’ Porter said. ‘‘Right now, I feel really good, really strong . . . and we’ll go from there. As far as the minutes and such, that’s totally up to Coach. I told him that I would play whatever he wanted me to do, play however many minutes. It’s totally up to him, and I’m definitely down for doing that.’’

The one starter that remains a concern is forward Lauri Markkanen, who shot 1-for-10, including 0-for-5 from three-point range, and was a minus-12 on the night.

‘‘I felt like emotionally he was engaged in the game,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I felt Lauri responded in terms of not shooting the ball well but staying engaged.’’

After the game, Donovan confirmed guards Tomas Satoransky and Devon Dotson and center Luke Kornet had ‘‘excused absences’’ but said he wasn’t allowed to go into details.

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