One day before the NBA trade deadline, Bobby Portis was dealt from the Chicago Bulls to the Washington Wizards as part of the package that landed Otto Porter Jr. in Chicago.
Two days later, Portis dropped 30 points off the bench in his Wizards debut, making him the first player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in back-to-back games with two different teams, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. (He had 33 points in his final contest with the Bulls).
Through three games with Washington, Portis is averaging 21.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.3 threes and 1.0 steal in 29.3 minutes off the bench, while shooting 51.0 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from deep. He’s playing well, which will only make his upcoming restricted free agency even more interesting.
HoopsHype caught up with Portis to discuss the trade, his time with the Bulls, his future with the Wizards, what it’s like to be part of a deadline deal and more.
When did you first learn of the trade to Washington and what was your initial reaction?
Bobby Portis: It’s been a crazy two weeks. On Sunday [before the trade deadline], I was seeing rumors and stuff on Twitter and Instagram so I called my agent. I asked him, “Am I in trade talks?” My agent immediately called Gar Forman, who is the GM of the Bulls. Gar Forman said, “No, it would have to be a blockbuster trade. If we were getting [a superstar like] LeBron James or Kevin Durant, then yeah, we’d trade Bobby. But [otherwise], no, we’re not trading Bobby.”
So Tuesday comes around and I’m at a G-League game when my agent called me. He said he got a call from Gar and [Bulls VP of Basketball Operations] John Paxson and they were asking questions like, “Does Bobby really want to be here? Does Bobby love being a Bull? Is he fine with his role?” I’ve been having a good year and I guess they were trying to see if I still wanted to be in Chicago. And, obviously, my answer was yes. Who doesn’t want to play for the great city of Chicago? Who doesn’t want to play at United Center and be a Bull?
On Wednesday, [I’m thinking], “I know for sure that I’m going to be a Bull after the deadline.” We had a game that night, so I went through my pregame routine, got taped, put my jersey on and sat in the locker room. Twenty-three minutes before the game started, one of the coaches told me that our head coach, Jim Boylen, wanted to talk with me. I walked into his office and I see Gar, Pax and Coach Boylen. They told me that they had agreed in principle to trade me. I asked, “Where am I going?” Then, they were hesitant to say. They finally said the Wizards.
My heart dropped. My stomach dropped. I didn’t know what to think. I went back to the locker room and I was just hugging everybody, shaking everyone’s hand. Everybody was in shock because nobody knew I was going to be traded. That wasn’t even a thought anyone had considered because they loved me there. It was a crazy feeling. Then, my phone started going haywire, so I guess that’s when the news dropped and everybody found out.
I saw some of your tweets after the deal and I could tell you were upset with how this played out. Did the fact that the front office said you wouldn’t be dealt make it hurt more?
BP: Yeah, it really hurts. They told me how much they valued me – that I was part of our core and that I was in the long-term plans. They told me how much they loved my energy, my heart, how hard I worked, how much I loved playing for the Bulls. Them telling me that I’m going to be there [through the deadline] and telling me that they want to work things out this summer [in restricted free agency]. We weren’t able to agree to a contract extension [before the Oct. 15 deadline], but they said they wanted to agree to something this summer before free agency hits. I think back on everything they told me. All this stuff was said and then I don’t even get notified when I’m getting traded? (pause) It’s just a crazy feeling. I guess I’m getting my first taste of the business. Business is business, I guess. I just don’t think it was done the right way.
When a player is traded, things get pretty chaotic because you have to relocate, try to get acclimated with your new team, adjust to a new system, learn new terminology, find a place to stay and much more. What has the last week been like since this deal happened?
BP: It’s really crazy. I was traded on Wednesday and I stayed in Chicago that night because the Wizards said I could fly out the next day. Then, on Thursday, I flew to Washington around noon, did my physical and all that stuff, and I got cleared to play in the Wizards’ next game, which was the following night. I played in the game on Friday and I had a good game; I had about 30 points. My coaches and teammates have been great, telling me to just be who I am and play my game. Then, suddenly, I’m back in Chicago having to play against the Bulls this past weekend. Not to mention, my birthday was on Sunday. It’s been a crazy week for me overall. I haven’t really gotten a chance to get acclimated to the city because I was only there for one day. So much happened in six or seven days and it all happened so quickly, but everything is getting better with time.
Instead of staying in a hotel for months, they’re paying for an apartment for me for the rest of the season, which is dope. I’m going to keep my place in Chicago so I have it for after the season and then on July 1, we’ll see where I end up once free agency starts. After that, I’ll just move my things then.
I’ve talked to some players who are really motivated after getting traded. Some guys want to show their former team that they made a mistake. For some guys, the change of scenery lights a fire under them. You’ve been playing really well; did the trade motivate you?
BP: Yeah, it did. I feel like I was playing well before the trade – putting some good games together and putting up some big numbers in limited minutes. I was doing my thing, while doing whatever was asked of me and just playing the game the right way. I’ve always been motivated, though. Getting traded gave me a bit of extra motivation, but what did really [motivate me] was seeing some of the comments made by the [Bulls’] GM and the press. They were talking about not wanting to pay me and that kind of stuff. All that stuff really motivates me. It makes me want to be a better player. It makes me wants to go out there and prove everybody wrong. I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder. I play with a log on my shoulder. I’ve never been the first guy picked. I’ve never been the first guy wanted. This all makes me even hungrier, and I’m appreciative of this new opportunity in Washington.
I know you haven’t been in Washington long, but what’s been your first impression of the organization?
BP: Everyone has been so welcoming. Coming to a new team, you never know what to expect. With me, I’d been on the Bulls for three and a half years, and I had a lot of different teammates over the years. One thing about the Bulls is that they’re very welcoming; they take care of you, help you get a place and stuff like that. Now, coming to Washington, I didn’t know what was going to go down. I didn’t know if my teammates would like me. I didn’t know the coaches. I really didn’t know anything. I just came in, being myself, and they welcomed me with open arms. My teammates and coaches have all told me to be who I am, be vocal, be aggressive on the offensive end… Basically, be Bobby Portis. I think those few words really helped me as I get acclimated to my team quickly.
The Bulls have the NBA’s fourth-worst record and they’ve dealt with drama too. It was widely reported that some players were frustrated with Jim Boylen and even thought about skipping a practice to send a message. I know you didn’t want to be traded, but is it kind of nice to get away from those issues in Chicago?
BP: I don’t have anything negative to say about anyone in the Chicago Bulls’ organization. They’re a first-class organization and they do everything the right way. We were a young team. We were the youngest team in the NBA; our average age was 24 years old. Man, that’s really young for an NBA team. Things obviously happen – players get hurt and players get moved.
I think injuries really dictated our season this year. We had myself, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn hurt during the first month to month-and-a-half of the season, which kept us from getting off to a strong start. Later on, we would try to jell and then another player would get hurt – from Zach [LaVine] being out to myself getting hurt again to Wendell [Carter Jr.] going down. We never had our full team, so we never saw our full strength. Lord knows how good we could’ve been had those injuries never happened.
You became the first player in NBA history to score 30 points in back-to-back games with two different team. What was your reaction when learned that and does that give you even more confidence?
BP: It’s a great feeling, man. I think it’s a testament to my hard work and how much time I put into this beautiful game. I love [obsessing over] the little details of this game. I’m a guy who goes out there and gives it my all each and every night. And I think my teammates and coaches – on both teams – deserve credit for this too. They trusted me with the ball and trusted me to make good decisions. It’s just a great feeling to go out there each and every night and be able to play this game.
Because this was your first time getting traded, did anything about the process surprise you?
BP: It’s been different. When you stay somewhere for three and a half years, that’s a long time. You get used to it and it’s nice having a place there, being able to make friends there, building these relationships that will last forever in that city. I think that’s the toughest part of [getting traded]. That’s the toughest thing to move on from. I was really acclimated in that city and I knew which spots to go to – where to eat, different places to go. You just get familiar with everything [and take it for granted]. Now, you’re going to a new city and you don’t know anything. You don’t know if you’ll like it. That’s tough. That’s the hardest part.
But I think that’s just part of the business. There aren’t many players who are able to play for one team their entire NBA career – there’s very few players like that. This is my first time going through this and changing teams; hopefully I don’t go through it again for a while. But I am really happy to be in a place where they love who I am, as a person and as a player, and where they’re very welcoming. I’m just happy to be a Wizard.