Amid trade talks, Bulls fall to Pelicans 125-120
"We've got to do the little things. The little things are going to help us win and get over the hump." - Kris Dunn
Bobby Portis has left the building before under unhappy circumstances. This time he's not coming back.
Just before the Bulls Wednesday lost 125-120 to the New Orleans Pelicans, Portis along with Jabari Parker learned they'd been traded to the Washington Wizards for sixth-year small forward Otto Porter Jr.
"I could tell Bobby was a little weird about it," Zach LaVine, with 28 points to complement Lauri Markkanen with 30, said following the game. "I learned early in the NBA (when) some of my best friends got traded. Bobby's pretty much the main glue of the team, big time voice. It sucks. He's one of my best friends on the team. Me and Jabari talk all the time. It sucks he didn't get (what) he wanted to come here, Chicago kid. It's the NBA. Those two are great players. They're going to be very successful. We play them (Saturday). They'll know how I feel when I play against Minnesota. They're going to feel the same way playing against us. Even in the next 24 hours, you've got to have your phone on you."
And be ready to phone home.
It's also why Bulls center and sometimes mistaken extra terrestrial Robin Lopez, whose future with the Bulls remains in trade speculation with the deadline Thursday afternoon, posted Wednesday on Twitter a film clip of Doris Day singing Que Sera Sera (Whatever will be will be) from the 1950s Hitchcock movie, the Man Who Knew Too Much.
These NBA men, really, know too little about what's occurring during these anxious trading times. The rest of us, as well.
Que sera sera; the future's not ours to see.
So the Bulls newest vision begins again with 6-8 small forward Porter joining the team either in Brooklyn Friday or to play against his former team Saturday in the United Center.
Bulls officials and coach Jim Boylen were not able to discuss the trade since it wasn't official with the NBA office until after 11 p.m.
Portis left without meeting media, though he was asked Tuesday in practice about his fate since he rejected a contract extension last fall and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
"A tough year for me," acknowledged Portis, who suffered knee, ankle and elbow injuries that cost him 31 games. "You play four games, get hurt. Play five games, get hurt. But I feel like I'm in the best shape now of the season. I feel great. I love the rhythm that I'm in right now (averaging 19.6 the last five games after 33 his last game). It's fun to go out there and play the game.
"Obviously, the trade deadline's going each and every season," said Portis. "I don't really think about it at all. I'm just out here doing what I do on a a day-to-day basis, going out there playing the game that I love, playing the right way and practicing. So I'm really not worried about a deadline or anything like that. If my agent calls me and tells me things are in the works then I guess that's that. But I haven't gotten any calls about that. I guess they aren't, but there could be. You never know. We've had reports. Rumors and stories make the game. That makes it interesting for the fans. It makes it that much interesting for the social media. As a professional, you can't look into it. You have to worry about your job. I feel like that's the only thing I'm worried about right now."
When I came into the league, I didn't know everything at once. It's just going to take time; it's going to take patience and that's what J-Kidd (former Bucks coach Jason Kidd) did for me and Giannis (Antetokounmpo). He let us go through our mistakes, let us develop as men and as players and I see a similar situation for some of the guys on this team.
Parker stopped in the hallway outside the locker room to chat with reporters on his way out after a difficult season for different reasons. Parker was the team's principal off season free agent acquisition. He was moved to the bench in training camp, then back to starting with injuries to Markkanen and Portis, and then out of the rotation when Boylen replaced Fred Hoiberg as coach and then back playing again.
"It's the business," said Parker. "It's just surprising to me because Bobby was quote/unquote the leader and captain of our team. Just a guy that they love, and for him to get moved is obviously bitter, but, hey, that's just how it goes.
"I have no regrets, I have no backlash," Parker said. "I'm a God-fearing man. I'm not personal when it comes to that. I'm just happy about where I'm going. I hope that I can be used the way I can and I know that I'm capable of. I say for the (Bulls) team, we've got some great talent. Can't speak on my situation, but be consistent with guys, give them the opportunity to grow, give them that chance that they have to be free on the floor. Because when I came into the league, I didn't know everything at once. It's just going to take time; it's going to take patience and that's what J-Kidd (former Bucks coach Jason Kidd) did for me and Giannis (Antetokounmpo). He let us go through our mistakes, let us develop as men and as players and I see a similar situation for some of the guys on this team."
And so the Bulls still present had to play a game, and it was somewhat similar to many before as the record dropped to 12-42 with the ninth consecutive home loss.
"I thought the difference in the game was Julius Randle was terrific (with a game high 31 points off the bench against the Bulls depleted bench)," said Boylen. "We had a hard time dealing with him at that four spot. Being shorthanded at that position hurt us. We were 4-for-21 in the third (after leading 65-64 in a spirited first half), lose that quarter 27-17. We never really recovered from that. Too many second chance points (14 Pelicans offensive rebounds), too many paint points defensively (60). I like (the Bulls) 27 assists, I like eight turnovers. I like the ball popping around, guys making shots. We just having hard time sustaining that."
It's been an uncomfortable pattern of late for the Bulls, their offense expanded and the defense contracting. There's generally an empty sequence somewhere, and then just not enough offense to overcome. But perhaps it's coming, and not only with the addition of Porter, who has been one of the league's best three-point shooters, third overall last season at 44 percent and about 40 percent for his career.
His addition fills a vital need for the Bulls of a so called 3-and-D wing player who can make plays, shoot threes and defend.
The Bulls finally got some of that late from Kris Dunn with perhaps his best quarter of the season, 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls got within three, fell back, got within five, fell back again, and never could make enough defensive plays against a high scoring Pelicans team even without Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, E'Twaun Moore and Elfrid Payton. The Bulls were without Portis, Parker and injured Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison.
"We're not a running, sprint-up-and-down-the-floor team," said Boylen. "They are, so we have to be careful not to get in that type of pace. We have to execute when we can, and we have to play them at half court when we can. A 125-120 game plays into their hands, I think, more than us right now. We have to get better at that."
Perhaps with Porter it will be as he should give the Bulls more of the look of a modern, NBA offensive team.
Markkanen, though still burdened with too many catch-and-shoot opportunities and tough shots he has to manufacture, is scoring at his most consistent this season, averaging 20.8 points and 10.7 rebounds the last 10 games.
After LaVine got the Bulls rolling with 13 first quarter points, Markkanen added 11 in the second quarter for that high scoring first half. Davis' absence, of course, has been the story of the NBA the last week with his trade request and speculation he was on the way to join LeBron James in Los Angeles. The Pelicans, however, appear uninterested in trading Davis yet and it is expected if he is not traded Thursday he will sit out the rest of this season. It's given Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor a chance to play and he's shown many teams made a mistake ignoring him after his difficulties in Philadelphia. He's not explosive, and Lopez scored over him early as the Bulls got off to a 10-4 start and led by 12 points late in the first quarter. Okafor finished with 13 points and remained a factor for the Pelicans.
The Bulls got caught with a small lineup late in the first that the Pelicans dominated to get within 39-37 after one quarter. New Orleans led by Jrue Holiday excelled at interior passing that helped enable them to score so many inside. The Bulls rarely get players easy baskets with that sort of interior passing, forcing them into more difficult outside shots.
The Pelicans pulled away in that disastrous third quarter for the Bulls, 19 percent shooting while the Bulls dropped under screens and the Pelicans continued to make shots. The Bulls got a look at newcomer Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot. He had a couple of early scores, though also ran out of the corner once when Dunn was passing into the corner. Luwawu-Cabarrot isn't particularly explosive, though he isn't shy like many of the reserves the Bulls have brought in this season. He attempted 11 shots in 19 minutes, scoring nine points and not much into passing. Which actually isn't bad for this Bulls team which often needs aggressive scorers.
He cooled off in the second half, and Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn got it going again. But it wasn't quite enough with a nice assist from a bothersome Shaquille Harrison with four steals.
"I thought we fought with the players that we had," said Dunn. "The first half I thought we played well. Second half, we still played hard, but they just outrebounded us and got a lot of second chance points. We're trying to work on our chemistry, and it's growing. But at the same time we've got to do the little things. The little things are going to help us win and get over the hump."
Though the Bulls hope Otto Porter Jr. could be one of those big things.
Got a question for Sam?
Submit your question to Sam at email@example.com
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.