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Portis Wants to Win Games, Not Friends on the Court

Chicago Bulls rookie Bobby Portis cares more about winning games than making friends.

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Bobby Portis is clear about his priorities in the NBA. Helping the Chicago Bulls win games is one of them, winning over opponents is not.

The intense power forward made headlines during this year’s draft process when he explained he envisions his competitors slapping his mother to get into game mode. Once Portis takes the court, he’s ready for battle.

Even though he has achieved his goal of reaching the NBA, the 22nd overall pick isn’t letting up. Portis brought that drive to Summer League in Las Vegas where he attacked each of his games with a fervent focus.

“I’ve never been a guy to be cool with people on the court,” Portis told Basketball Insiders. “I’ve always been a guy to go out there and mix things up a little bit.”

Portis posted 23 points and seven rebounds against the Minnesota Timberwolves in his Summer League debut. He averaged 15.4 points and 8.7 boards over six games, including two double-doubles. Portis scored 25 points and grabbed a monster 15 rebounds in his final game against the Phoenix Suns.

Along the way he could be heard barking at his opponents, standing his ground and making his presence known. He doesn’t expect to have a warm and fuzzy persona in the NBA, and that’s just fine by him.

“I don’t think I’m perceived as a nice guy,” Portis said. “I feel like I’m a guy that goes out there and plays and handles my business. I feel like each team that I play, they’re not going to see me as a nice guy. They’re going to see that I’m going to be grimy and a guy that’s going to go out there and get it. I go 110 percent on every possession. I think that’s going to be my niche, not being a nice guy.”

Portis looks forward to the first time he will square off against one of the NBA’s most notorious trash talkers, Kevin Garnett. He drew some comparisons to the future Hall of Famer for his emotions on the court. Garnett is known for rarely paying mind to opposing rookies, and Portis is ready for that challenge.

“It’s going to be very physical, I can tell you that now,” Portis said. “There’s going to be a lot of smack talking. I feel like that’s going to be a challenge for me because me personally, I like to be high level. If I can go out there and do my thing against him, I feel like I can make my mark.”

Portis, who grew up in Little Rock and attended the University of Arkansas, is only beginning his basketball journey. Now playing 600 miles from his hometown, he thinks back to where he came from to continue moving forward.

“My mom and my brothers (drive me),” he said. “We were a family where we had a lot but we didn’t at times. I’m basically a self-made guy. I’m a guy that was never talked about, I was never hyped up. … I got here by hard work and if I stop working, I’ll be downgrading.”

With Summer League in the books, Portis will start preparing for training camp. Then comes the start of his rookie season, a milestone he is not taking for granted.

“It’s crazy to even be here in this moment,” Portis said. “As a kid, you always dream about being an NBA player. Once I stepped out on the floor and I saw my jersey said ‘Chicago Bulls,’ it was like, ‘Damn, I’m actually here.’ I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I want to make the best of it.”

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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