Bobby Portis got hot late in the season. He averaged 10.2 points after the All-Star break in 21 minutes per game after 4.7 points in 12 minutes before the All-Star break.
No, not that kind of hot.
“I had a third degree burn on my foot on top of my foot and every time I tied my shoe it was right on that spot,” Portis revealed Saturday after his post season meeting with management. “After the game, the whole thing would be bloody or nasty. A heat pad burned me before the game. I was actually on the table. I couldn’t feel it. I had my headphones in. I didn’t feel it burning through. It was the same day we played the Clippers at home. It still kind of hurts, but at the same time the doctor said it will hurt for three, four months, so I have to go through that.
“No one ever really knew about it,” Portis said. “It affected me a little bit. Every time I bent my foot it hurt. I didn’t really ever complain. I’m not one of those guys. I think I’m tough, so I don’t really try to tell anyone. I just hold it in myself. I fought through it because I got in the rotation. I didn’t want to let a foot injury take me out and have me work my way back to it.”
Who said a hot foot was bad, anyway?
After all, it was the best Portis played as a Bull after that, scoring in double digits in six of the team’s last 12 games. Portis then was a big part of the opening playoff win in Boston with 19 points and nine rebounds.
“It was a fun year,” Portis said. “I feel like through the ups and downs it made me who I was. That built character. Starting out the season, having to play another position, which was center; it wasn't my natural position. And then I had to go to the bench and keep working to keep my minutes. I earned it. It was fun playing in the playoffs, too, just having that experience under my belt is big for the future.”
Portis will now likely be in the mix for the starting power forward position moving forward. He averaged 6.9 points in the regular season overall and then 6.7 points in the playoffs. He shot 46 percent in the playoffs on threes, but he said one of his goals is to develop post moves now that he is in his more natural position of power forward.
“I want to have two or three moves at the post I feel I can go to at anytime and score,” Portis said, referencing Paul Millsap as a player he wants to emulate. “Just not standing there and (shooting) threes. I love shooting threes, but my whole life I haven’t been just a three point shooter. I’ve always been a mid range guy. So just trying to be overall guy having an inside/outside game and always toning my body like I always say, having a good body and conditioned body is big in this league.”
Portis said he’s done enough in summer league, but will work on his strength and skills this summer, mostly in Chicago.
“With the amount of time I was given, I feel like I strived a lot this year,” Portis said. “It was fun for me to go out and play basketball at the highest level, and I feel like coach Hoiberg and the staff trusts me each and every day to be myself. So I feel like I have, I don't want say penciled myself in, but I have established myself for the future. I feel like I helped space the floor for the team. I helped rebound at the highest level. I gave it my all each and every time I was out there on the floor. I went out there and competed. That's the biggest thing. I'm a high-energy guy out there each and every time. I'm someone who's going to give it his all every time I'm out there.”
It didn’t seem clear if the 6-11 second year forward would get that chance coming into the season with no position open. So he was moved to third center to get some playing time, which didn’t work well.
Adversity makes you who you are and that’s the adversity I had to go through this year, not playing and having to find my role and trying to find some minutes for myself,” said Portis. “I was playing the five and every time I caught it they wanted me to roll. And I couldn’t pop. That was kind of new for me. I’ve never been a roll to the rim guy. So I was kind of hesitating because I didn’t want to shoot it and get taken out for shooting the ball when I was supposed to roll. That kind of affected me a little bit, but then once the season went on I didn’t feel I had anything to lose so I just shot the ball.”
And like with many of the young players, Rajon Rondo was a valuable mentor, Portis said.
“He's like the brother I never had,” said Portis. “I always say that but I truly mean that to a T. He always called me, making sure I was good. When I wasn't playing at the beginning of the year, he always invited me over to his house to eat, talk to me about other things that's going on. Not just basketball. For him it was bigger than just basketball because you're only playing this game for so long. But the relationships that you build last forever. I never knew it would get like that (with Rondo) because as a kid I grew up watching the Celtics. I grew up watching Rondo, and I'd be in the gym trying to imitate his fake behind-the-back pass. It was kind of cool to be on the same team with him hanging out.”
There was a lot of talking between the teams at the end of the series with the Celtics, and Portis would have made Rondo proud.
“The whole Celtics bench started talking smack,” Portis said. “I just told them that our team will be back next year.”
Just like Portis.