Bobby Portis just 'wants to play ball'

They are all our children. Yes, they're young, and they have been restless. The world did start to turn badly for them when it resulted in a general hospital visit while all there remains is the search for tomorrow. Will Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis get together? What would happen? Who would make the first move? Would anyone?

But while this has been playing out, Portis's eight game suspension while Mirotic recovers from the broken bones in his face after the preseason altercation, Portis quietly has been emerging as a reliable reserve forward for the Bulls.

"I feel like I've been playing well," Portis said Thursday morning after Bulls practice in Denver. "I've been rebounding the ball well, playing defense better than I have before. Trying to score when the opportunity is there. I'm taking great shots, so I'm not forcing anything on the offensive end. Trying to be a great player."

Portis probably isn't destined for incredible distinction, but it's been a brighter day for him this season.

The third year forward is also further complicating the rotation as Mirotic closes in on a return to playing and rookie Lauri Markkanen appears to have assumed the starting power forward position.

Portis is averaging 12.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in about 22 minutes per game off the bench. His scoring is almost double his average from last season. He's also shooting a career best 36 percent on threes.

"Just trying to be a better vocal leader," Portis added. "That's something I've never really been, a guy who talks a lot. I've always been a quiet guy. I've always been a let-my-play do the talking type of guy. That's something I can do better, trying to lead and trying to bring it every day and raise my teammates up.

"Try to bring a sense of urgency, a fire to the game (for the second unit)," Portis said of his role. "Try to go out there and play with energy and effort and try to score off the bench. I feel like (the) team struggles scoring the second quarter starting off, and teams get off to a great start off us the second quarter. We want to cut that down."

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said David Nwaba will be back in uniform Thursday for the first time since his sprained ankle November 4. So perhaps that will help with energy off the bench.

Portis, meanwhile, repeated as he did in his comments to media at the end of his eight-game suspension that he is comfortable moving forward with Mirotic. It was Portis' punch that caused Mirotic's facial injuries. Mirotic addressed reporters for the first time since then Wednesday and made clear he wasn't speaking with Portis. But Mirotic also emphasized he always has been professional with teammates and will be that way with Portis.

Portis acknowledged as much.

"I just want to play ball," Portis reiterated. "Like I've been saying: I just want to hoop. I've been having a good year so far. I want to do everything I can to help my team win. I've been improving game by game. So I'm just focused on trying to play ball now."

Asked about dealing with Mirotic in the locker room after the incident, Portis said, "Why couldn't I? We're teammates, just trying to help this team win as much as possible. Obviously, we're struggling right now trying to find a win and I just want to do everything I can to help my team find a win."

Portis was at ease and relaxed as he spoke with reporters Thursday. That was in comparison to his stiff and uneasy manner when he first met media after the suspension.

"Some teammates don't gel off the court, but on the court they have to make ends meet for the team needs," Portis said. "If that's what we've got to do, that's what we've got to do."

Portis said he hadn't spoken with Mirotic.

"I think he (Hoiberg) is handling it well," said Portis. "He's coming in day by day giving us a game plan to try to make us a better team. They're doing everything they can do to help us win. We are doing everything we can do to win games, also. Even though the score might say we lost, I feel like with our team there's a great effort every night.

"I'm just trying to play ball," Portis said. "Like I said from the beginning, just go out here and try to compete and do what I love to do and it's been fun up to this point for me.I just want to play ball and try to compete and make my team better day by day. I've been playing good so far this season. I want to keep it rolling. No distractions needed."