Chicago Bulls

After Bobby Portis burned Celtics in opener, will they adjust or dare him to do it again?

After Bobby Portis burned Celtics in opener, will they adjust or dare him to do it again?

Bobby Portis probably had a higher standing on the Celtics’ draft board two years ago than he did on their scouting report coming into this first-round playoff series, but like a new song that’s caught fire in the spring, he’s moving up the charts.

Portis wowed in his playoff debut, unfazed by the atmosphere and sensing a void at the power forward spot with Nikola Mirotic struggling, scored 19 points with nine rebounds in the Bulls’ surprising series-opening win at TD Garden Sunday.

Now the question is, can Portis have a repeat performance? 

In what could be a desperate atmosphere in Game 2 Tuesday night, the Celtics can’t afford to go down 0-2 headed to Chicago for two games and the pressure will squarely be on the home team to restore order.

"I’ve always been confident; it helps at the same time I knew the circumstances of what my team needed from me," Portis said Sunday night. "I went out there and played my basketball game, I took the shots that came to me."

Not only did he make shots but he played with an energy and exuberance on the glass, running the floor and helped contribute to the Bulls’ massive edge on the glass, along with a grown man block on Jae Crowder with less than three minutes remaining and the Bulls clamping down on the Celtics offense.

Then hitting jumpers late along with some emotion and swagger.

Although the last handful of Portis’ shots were contested and he was already in a late rhythm, most of his opportunities came from the Celtics’ pick-and-roll defense, bringing two players to the ballhandler and choosing to leave Portis or Mirotic open to take their chances.

"I’m a very confident basketball player, but I credit the guys who passed me the ball and had confidence in me to shoot the ball," Portis said. "They were telling me to shoot the ball; that helps, too; at the same time I prepared the whole season even though through the ups and downs that made me where I am today."

Portis burned them and it appears the Bulls expected that coming into the series.

"They did a good job, they didn't plan for Bobby Portis to go 8-10 from the field," Dwyane Wade said before the Bulls practiced at Emerson College Monday afternoon.

"But I thought their gameplan was true to Boston. Bobby Portis just had a big game and that was the difference maker."

[BUY TICKETS: Get your Bulls playoff seats here]

Wade seemed to be more decoy than aggressor in Game 1, a strategy he appears okay with as long as it works, as he only took 12 shots in 34 minutes. And considering Sunday was the first playoff experience for many Bulls like Portis, nobody seemed too shocked he was the one who wasn’t affected and didn’t shrink from the moment.

"He didn't show anything (new). I knew what Bobby's capable of," Jimmy Butler said. "I've seen it in practice, I've seen it all year long. He's confident. But your confidence comes from your work. He's out there shooting jump shots every day. It doesn't matter if it's playoffs, game 52, game 82, or if it's overtime. I have confidence that he's going to step up and make those shots."

Al Horford contested a few shots and with Portis hitting them anyways, one wonders if the Celtics will truly adjust to Portis or dare him to make those same shots again.

After all, hitting 18-to-20 footers is probably something Portis will have to prove he can make consistently through his entire career, and overreacting to an unknown commodity while opening up driving lanes for Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo doesn’t seem like the smartest move.

"You can try to prepare for adjustments they may make but you don't know," Wade said. "Whatever adjustments they make, you gotta make adjustments to their adjustment."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

bulls.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Shepkowski (670 The Score) and Dan Cahill (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap on the panel. Jake Arrieta will return to the rotation to face the Brewers. Can he recapture his pre-injury form? Mike Glennon gets another start Sunday but should he get the hook if he struggles again?

Plus, the guys discuss the one metric that says the Bulls are the worst team in the NBA.

A 'woke' Doug Collins returns to provoke thought — and we'll find out who's asleep in Bulls' front office

A 'woke' Doug Collins returns to provoke thought — and we'll find out who's asleep in Bulls' front office

Doug Collins made it clear, that his return to the Bulls organization won’t result in a return to the sidelines as head coach, meaning Fred Hoiberg has nothing to worry about in the way of looking over his shoulder.

What Collins did admit, though, is he’s back with the Bulls to provoke thought. Anyone who’s listened to Collins as a broadcaster for ESPN or Turner Sports, or talked to him in any basketball capacity, knows he’s not only a hoops lifer but also someone who can have strong opinions, capable of quick dissection of a complex picture in a moment’s notice.

“I’m not here to be a decision-maker. I want to provoke thought. My mind is very active,” Collins said Tuesday afternoon at the Advocate Center. “And I think to get into a room and to bounce ideas off each other or whatever, at the end of the day, Gar, Michael, Jerry, Pax will make those decisions. The beauty of it is is that when there’s a level of trust when you’re talking about things, you can speak openly and honestly with people knowing the only thing that matters is that whatever happens is the best for the franchise.”

Announcing Collins as a senior advisor to executive vice president John Paxson adds another voice to the Bulls’ braintrust and is probably an admission this rebuild will require more than what the Bulls already have, be it in terms of connections, observation and even innovation.

Collins’ connection to Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf, a growing relationship with Michael Reinsdorf and ability to relate with Hoiberg due to the misery of coaching should align a front office to the floor in ways that has been in doubt for the past several seasons.

“Given Jerry's relationship and my relationship with Doug over the years, we thought, hey, let's see if maybe this isn't a good time for Doug to come back into the fold,” Paxson said. “So we approached him and it was very casual, no expectations other than he's been a friend of ours for so long. But the more we kind of dug into the prospects of this and what it means, the more we kept asking ourselves, why wouldn't we do this?”

Collins made it clear he won’t be giving up his family life, as he already has residence in Chicago and his son Chris is coaching Northwestern and a son-in-law coaching a high school team outside Philadelphia.

“The hours and the time commitment that Fred Hoiberg puts in on a day and the energy that he spends and being on the road and being away from his family,” Collins said. “(This) worked perfectly in my schedule when I talked to Pax that I could be a part of something special, the Chicago Bulls, and I love the Chicago Bulls.”

His energy and passion can light up a room, and though he tried his best to say that’s died down at age 66, claiming “I can sit and do a crossword puzzle for three hours now”, people wired like Collins don’t lose their fervor for the game.

“I think there’s this feeling that I’m a guy who’s always on and fired up,” Collins said.

But that fire and passion and presumably a willingness to be uncompromising with the truth should be something that’s welcome inside the Advocate Center. In addition to his acumen, one of Collins’ greatest strengths is his fervor, and it shouldn’t be scaled back.

That’s not how rebuilds work successfully. Lines have to be crossed and people have to be made uncomfortable in their line of thinking, even if it’s Paxson or Hoiberg or general manager Gar Forman.

It’s not hard to see the Bulls following the thinking of the Golden State Warriors when they added Jerry West in an advisory role years ago, resulting in several key moves being made, most notably West’s objection to Klay Thompson being traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love before Love was eventually moved to Cleveland.

West’s guidance played a part in the Warriors’ upward trajectory to championship status, and he hopes to have a similar affect with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Comparing West with Collins on its face is a bit unfair, considering West’s experience as an executive and championship pedigree dating back to his days with the Lakers.

At least with West, he’s not trying to convince anyone he isn’t anything but a tortured basketball soul at age 79. Collins reminded everyone he’s a grandfather of five and at a spry 66, West would call Collins a “spring chicken.”

What Collins can bring is a keen eye for observation, and expecting him to be a passive personality doesn’t quite seem right, especially leaving the cushy job at ESPN that allowed him maximum exposure and a schedule to his liking.

Perhaps the way Collins left the NBA, with a massive gambit in Philadelphia falling flat when Andrew Bynum’s knees rendered him useless and sending the 76ers franchise into “The Process,” left him with a bad taste in his mouth.

Maybe his competitive juices got him going again and the broadcast booth just wasn’t cutting it, along with having a front seat to the injury that changed the course of the Bulls franchise when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in 2012 against Collins’ 76ers.

Maybe the crossword puzzles just couldn’t get it done anymore. After all, the man once cried on the sidelines as his Detroit Pistons beat the Bulls in a regular-season game in 1997. Curbing that passion would be a disservice.

“See how things quickly change? The NBA is cyclical now,” Collins said. “Other than the San Antonio Spurs, over the last 20 years, every elite franchise has gone through this moment. And so now what you got to do, you got to dig yourself back up.

“We got to start doing all the things that are necessary to gain assets day by day, to put all the work, so we’re going to give ourself a chance, when we continue to get better players and more talent, that you’re going to win more basketball games.”

Collins said he has old-school values, all while being caught up with the times that he called himself “woke” as a nod to the current culture.

If he truly is, we’ll also find out who’s asleep in the front office, in desperate need a loud wake-up call.