It’s not often a February regular-season game between two sub-.500 teams carries so much emotion.
But that’s what happens when the Bulls and Wizards met just three days after trading players. It’s what happens when the emotional player nicknamed “Crazy Eyes” is involved. And it’s what happens when a proud player who signed as the premier offseason addition returns to talk about how his homecoming turned sour.
The Bulls aired a video tribute for Bobby Portis, he of the frothing intensity and crazy eyes, and Jabari Parker, the former Simeon High School prodigy. For what it’s worth, the United Center applause welcoming Otto Porter Jr. in his home debut rang louder.
The emotion would’ve been intense regardless.
Portis and Parker laughed last, sending the Bulls to a franchise-record 10th straight home loss, 134-125.
Parker threw down six dunks on his way to 20 points with six assists, while Portis added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Zach LaVine’s 26 points and Lauri Markkanen’s third straight double-double led the Bulls, who allowed 57.9 percent shooting.
Portis said he had “Bulls DNA” last fall when he turned down the Bulls’ four-year, roughly $48 million offer that Portis said was filled with hard-to-reach incentives and was so stung by the trade that he left the United Center emotionally on Wednesday. He’s been making his strong feelings known via social media since.
“I was just being sarcastic and just having fun. Twitter, I just use it for having fun and just expressing myself a little bit. No bad feelings,” Portis said. “I’m with a team right now that’s in the playoff hunt. I’m really focused on that.
“I think everybody knows how much I prided (myself) playing for the Bulls and prided (myself) playing for the city of Chicago. I think that’s known by everybody in the Bulls organization. Obviously, I got my first taste of the business side of basketball. You don’t really get your way all the time. It’s not really your choice. I have to roll with it now. I was hurt the last 48 hours. But when I got into the game (during his Washington debut Friday), those hurt emotions went away.”
Portis visited the Bulls’ locker room after the game and told his ex-teammates and coaches how much they meant to him, several witnesses said.
Parker, whose highlight was a nasty left-handed dunk over Markkanen, didn’t play in 12 of 13 games after coach Jim Boylen pulled him from the rotation in mid-December shortly after taking over for Fred Hoiberg. Boylen, who had been Parker’s confidante as associate head coach, cited Parker’s poor practice habits and effort on defense.
“At that point, we never had controversy,” Parker said. “I always had his back with things that we had in-house problems with. Always had everybody’s back. Just to see that relationship go sour, not from my end but from his end, was just bad. Because you trust the guy. He says all the things.
“I understand it’s his decisions and whatever, but it was just hard. Because of the relationship that we had going into it when he was a head coach.”
Asked if that meant Boylen didn’t have his back once he became head coach, Parker demurred but still reiterated his surprise at his changing role.