Bobby’s back! Well, soon perhaps. And his teammates are excited.
The eight-game suspension of Bulls forward Bobby Portis from punching teammate Nikola Mirotic in a preseason practice ended with Saturday’s Bulls overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Portis has been practicing with the team under terms of the team suspension. He will be eligible to play for the first time this season Tuesday in Toronto.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was coy about plans for Portis, saying it was to be determined.
“He’s worked extremely hard,” said Hoiberg. “Bobby’s been getting a lot of extra work in before and after practice; we’ll give him a lot of reps (Monday). He’s a competitive kid and I know he’s excited to get back.”
As for teammates?
“One hundred percent welcome,” said Justin Holiday. “Bobby’s important to this team; just as well as Niko is. We’re excited. Those are our brothers and when they come back we’re excited to have them back and help this team; with them we are better. Of course, we are excited about Bobby coming back; he knows that. I think he’s going to be ready to come in and play.
“Bobby loves to play this game,”said Holiday. “Bobby’s one of the most competitive people I’ve been around. I think we are all very competitive, but when Bobby gets on that court he loves to play this game and he plays with a chip on his shoulder every time. I can look at Bobby and tell. You can see it in his eyes when he practices. He comes out aggressive. He’s working, running sprints. Bobby’s one person I don’t have to say much to. He’s always ready and always is going to give everything he has. He goes about the game like me, go as hard as you can, you make a mistake, make it 100 percent and that’s it.”
Mirotic still is a long way from playing.
Hoiberg said Saturday he’s spoken with Mirotic and saw him at the Advocate Center earlier in the day. The indications were Mirotic after his severe facial injuries and concussion still was doing mostly exercises on his own.
So the first stage for the team is the return of Portis, and the Bulls players, at least, have moved forward.
“That’s exciting,” Robin Lopez said about Portis’ return. “We’ve been playing with such great energy and Bobby is the epitome of that. I think he’s handled it as well as he could have. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with the rotations going forward, but I know he’s mentally prepared for that; and we’re excited to have him back.”
Holiday said it would not be surprising given the circumstances if Portis is anxious in a return, especially with not having played in a regular season game yet. But the Bulls welcome the help.
“The thing about Bobby is Bobby’s a competitor,” said Holiday. “He’s going to come in and do what he has to do. I don’t think there’s much we have to tell Bobby.
He’s itching to play. I’m pretty sure Bobby’s going to come right in and play as hard as he can, give us everything he has.
“I don’t think Bobby will be nervous,” Holiday said. “Anxious is possible; let’s see what happens. I know I would be anxious if I haven’t played. I’d probably come in 1,000 miles per hour. I know he’s going to give us everything he has and that’s all we ask of him.”