When Arkansas forward Bobby Portis fell to 22 in the 2015 NBA Draft the Chicago Bulls were ecstatic. Many experts projected Portis to be a late Lottery pick based on his exploits as a Razorback. Portis, the 2015 SEC Player of the Year averaged 17.5 points and 9 rebounds per game during his last season at the University of Arkansas. Because of a perceived lack of athleticism Portis fell out of the Lottery and to the Bulls, who were more than happy to welcome him into the fold.
“Bobby’s a guy that we’ve watched play the last few years at Arkansas and our entire staff has really liked him,” Bulls General Manager Gar Forman said on draft night. “We had him ranked as a late lottery pick going into the night. As we saw him start to slip, we got excited about him and then we were surprised he was there. Really excited to get Bobby. I think he’s going to be a fit with our team. I think he’s going to be a fit in our locker room. I think he’s got a lot of potential for the future.”
“Future” is the key word when talking about Bobby Portis. Despite a solid Summer League and preseason, when the regular season rolled around Portis was riding the pine. It’s difficult to log meaningful minutes playing behind Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, and Taj Gibson, but it’s imperative that the rookie be ready when his number is called.
Bobby Portis’ first NBA game was not an ideal situation. The rookie was thrown into the fire during Chicago’s 130-105 road loss to the Charlotte Hornets. While his minutes lacked meaning, Portis did what he was supposed to do – provide energy. Portis scored 10 points in ten minutes going 5-for-7 from the field. His all-out effort gave fans a possible glimpse into what they can expect from BP when he gets his chance to shine.
Sherron Shabazz: How’d it feel on draft night when you heard your name called and knew you were going to Chicago?
Bobby Portis: It was an unbelievable feeling like I’ve always said. I was waiting for an hour and a half to hear my name called. Once my name was called it was a relief. I went up there and hugged the Commissioner. Most people shook his hand, but I gave him a hug because I was appreciative for the Bulls to draft me.
SS: In your first NBA game it was a blowout but you scored 10 points in 10 minutes. How did it feel to play your first professional game?
BP: It felt great. I hadn’t played in a long time and I was waiting on my number to be called. It was crazy that my number was called in a blowout, but it was still a fun event for me to play in because as a kid you always dream of being in the NBA and playing in a game and I got the opportunity so I was very appreciative of it.
SS: You’re not in the rotation to a lot of people’s surprise. Did Coach Hoiberg tell you what your role is on this team?
BP: Nah, not at all. He just told me to be ready. The NBA is a long season. There are a lot of things that happen, people get injured and anything can happen throughout the season. I just have to stay ready. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s not about being in the rotation right now; it’s about assuming my role. My role is to be an energy guy once my number is called and go out there and do the things I do well.
SS: Do you feel like you showed some of that in your first game?
BP: I feel like I’ve shown that in my time with the Bulls – ever since July. Summer League I feel like I showed it, preseason I feel like I showed it; it’s just the amount of veterans in front of me. It’s not my time right now. It’s all about patience. Working and waiting, that’s all I’m doing.
SS: What part of your game do you think you have to work on the most right now?
BP: Building up my core. Like I’ve always said, people don’t think I’m athletic, I just feel like my core isn’t strong. It’s not something that’s a knock on me; it’s just something you can always work on. I feel like I’m a good player and I’ll be a great player one day as long as I keep working. The sky is the limit.
SS: Have any of the veterans taken you under their wing and shown you the ropes?
BP: Yeah, Taj has for sure. Even in the preseason game he was telling me just come off the bench and get shots up because it’s a difference in being a starter and being a rotational player. A rotational player has to come in and get his reps early on so he can have his rhythm.
SS: Do you have any rookie duties?
BP: Nah, not at all.
SS: That’s pretty good! What are your personal goals for your rookie season?
BP: My personal goal is to just try to get better each and every day. I’m just trying to fill out my game and be the best Bobby Portis possible.
SS: What’s your favorite thing about Chicago so far?
BP: Just the fans. It’s a great city to play in. If any player can get drafted here they’ll see the difference between this team and another team. The atmosphere here is different. It’s a winning environment. They embrace winning here – that’s what they’re used to.