Bobby Portis isn’t playing many meaningful minutes of NBA basketball for the Chicago Bulls. Reasons for that can be made in bunches. Maybe Fred Hoiberg is fearful that Joakim Noah will literally eat his soul if he gave some of the player’s minutes to the rookie. It could also be that the absolute crazy big-man depth the Bulls have is preventing an inexperienced player from getting some run on the court.
On the far negative end of the spectrum, there is the possibility that Bobby Portis stinks. You know, that Chicago’s coaching staff sees Portis in practice every single day, doesn’t like what their eyeballs witness, and think the #FreeBobbyPortis campaign is a worth cause only because they would like to rid themselves of his body on their roster.
I fail to see any reason to lend credence to that last theory. While Bobby Portis is still a very much developing type of player, one who isn’t as good as most power forwards in the league, his worst case scenario coming out of college wasn’t to be a bust. It was more likely that — if all else failed — he would be a solid big off the bench for whichever franchise scooped him up. A guy who can score some points.
It is more likely a combination of a few things. The Noah being a leader in Chicago forever and Hoiberg likely afraid to loser the locker room by pouching some of his minutes, a real aspect of Portis’ riding the bench.
If you’re a ride or die Bobby Portis supporter, though, Hoiberg’s possible fear seems misguided. Noah isn’t the same player he has been over his career. Some, like myself to be honest, feel like he’s mostly toast. That his, despite not starting a single game this season, 21 minutes per game is actually hurting the Bulls in the long term.
Noah, in somewhat limited action, hasn’t been productive offensively. To highlight so, his per 36 numbers are misleading a bit, yet he is only averaging 5 points per game. Sure, his total rebounds using the same formula are an astounding 14 per, but so too are his turnovers — which sit at a strange rate of 3.1 a night.
That’s not to say Noah doesn’t have value. He is still productive enough rebounding the ball and playing as tough a brand of defense as his body currently allows, but the idea of Joakim Noah as some sort of Chicago savior — the kind he has often been during Derrick Rose’s injury struggles — no longer applies.
While only 30 years-old, Noah’s basketball-body is closer to that of being broken down to the point of no return. As much as fans enjoy him, this isn’t a Terminator movie. Noah won’t get better as the season progresses.
It could also be fit. Maybe Bobby Portis doesn’t fit within the style of play Fred Hoiberg has been trying to implement. Now, to be fair, it seems as if every Chicago player — sans Doug McBuckets — fails to fit as well. Plus, while practice might low-light some issues of Portis’ game fitting in the scheme, there’s no way for Hoiberg to tell given the slew of “Coach’s DNP” in his wake to go along with Portis’ mere 22 total minutes of action over three total games.
Like, you know, give the kid a shot. One game. Noah, who if even is still very good, could use an entire night off. Gently hurl all those minutes upon the shoulders of Bobby Portis. He is ready. Simply ask him.
Portis: “Once the time comes, I’ll show the world what Bobby Portis can do.” #freebobbyportis
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 6, 2015
Also, it isn’t as if Portis has been a bust during his (incredibly) limited time on the floor. His per 36, at least offensively, destroys that of Noah’s. On a team which is struggling to find its offensive identity, one would think Hoiberg would take at least a one-game-risk of featuring Portis on the floor, as his per 36 of 23 points per should at least warrant him a shot (per 36 numbers: leading the world is misleading numbers).
I must admit that my child-seat has been hitched to the Bobby Portis bandwagon for some time now. As I spent a large portion of this column raising the idea that Hoirberg has some sort of Noah-based fear in his soul, it could be a thing much simpler than that. Instead of it being an agenda or fear founded rotation set forth on the court every night, this could be a Fred Hoiberg long-play. Use Noah now, develop Portis behind the scenes, then simply wait for Noah’s body to fail, culminating with Portis getting on the court.
All the conspiracy theories really. Other than that, outside all the reasons mentioned — from Portis maybe stinking to Hoiberg fearful of Noah — few things make as little sense as the rookie not even getting a fair shot on the court. Well, at least this isn’t a Lakers/Byron/Kobe fiasco, although, a losing streak can turn Hoiberg’s stubbornness in playing Noah — with all the crazy backstories that go with it — to fodder for us down the road.
Regardless, the #FreeBobbyPortis movement isn’t one which should be taken in a way that results in him being traded. As Chicago is getting older and with injury-riddled with key players such as Rose and Noah becoming both, Hoiberg and company need to win games now, but also look toward the future.
Whether or not Bobby Portis can even remotely come close to filling Noah’s shoes is yet to be seen, but no one will ever know or even be able to project such a thing unless he has a chance to trot about the hardwood as an NBA player.
We await the third movie in this trilogy, Fed Hoiberg. Who is going to direct it — Martin Scorsese or Rick Sloane? The decision is yours… I think?