Bobby Portis already was the biggest story of the night for the Chicago Bulls, as he returned from an eight-game suspension to make his season debut in Toronto on Tuesday night.
Portis took it a step further by playing maybe the best game of his NBA career.
The third-year power forward produced 21 points and 13 rebounds and led a late comeback that fell short. After trailing by as many as 23 points, the Bulls lost to the Raptors 119-114 at the Air Canada Centre.
Portis hit a hook shot in the final minute to bring the Bulls within 115-112, but the visitors never got the ball back with a chance to tie.
Center Robin Lopez added 20 points for the Bulls (2-7), while Justin Holiday scored 15 and Denzel Valentine 14. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto (6-4) with 24 points.
This is clearly an awkward situation for the Bulls. Portis was involved in a practice altercation with teammate Nikola Mirotic on Oct. 17 and threw a punch that sent Mirotic to the hospital with facial fractures and a concussion.
The two players have yet to speak to each other since the incident. Portis has said he reached out to apologize, but his calls and texts were not returned. So while Mirotic continues to heal from his injuries, Portis took the court in Toronto.
“I just want to play basketball. I’m not worried about my name being out there for the wrong reasons,” Portis told reporters before the game.
“I can’t control what people think about me. The only thing I can control is being the best basketball player possible at this point and try and get better each and every day.”
This was the third time Portis posted at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the NBA. Portis said he was feeling anxious before the game and didn’t get much sleep the previous night. His intention was to play an aggressive style.
“I have to play that way because if I don’t, I’m doing myself a dishonest, I’m doing my family a dishonest, I’m doing my teammates a dishonest,” Portis said. “That’s who I am as a player; that’s who I’m always going to be.”
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Mirotic had his best day in the weight room Tuesday but is still not doing any jogging.
Hoiberg also gave his thoughts on an interview Jimmy Butler did with ESPN. Butler called his departure from the Bulls a matter of the team choosing Hoiberg instead of him, but it’s hard to believe Butler meant that literally.
“You go back to John (Paxson’s) comments. This was the direction chosen. I don’t think it had anything to do with one person or another,” Hoiberg said. “The trade happened. We got some really good young pieces.
“We miss Jimmy. He is an unbelievable player and has had a great impact on winning for Minnesota. And he will continue to do that. We always wish him the best.”
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