How Otto Porter Jr.'s return could impact a simplified stretch run for Bulls


Otto Porter Jr.’s goals for the Bulls' remaining 21 games are simple.

“Just stay healthy and get some wins,” he said.

Give Porter credit not only for making a huge impact in his first action since Nov. 6, but also for being realistic.

“We’re not thinking about the playoffs right now. We’re just trying to get guys back,” Porter said. “When it gets down to it where we’re going to need a couple games. Then, we’ll get in that playoff mode to where everything is very detailed.”

So enjoy the Bulls’ second victory over a winning team for what it’s worth, particularly since the 109-107 decision over the Mavericks got closer than it needed to be. Luka Doncic’s half-court shot at the buzzer fell just short. Had it sunk, the Bulls’ two turnovers and two missed free throws in the final 21.2 seconds would have led to an excruciating loss.

Porter isn’t talking playoffs right now, but he’s not ruling them out. Given the Bulls almost coughed up an eight-point lead with 25.6 seconds remaining, he probably should. There’s also the small detail that the Bulls went 3-6 in Porter’s first nine games before he sustained a foot injury that was eventually diagnosed as a small fracture.

But Porter made the most of his minutes limit against Dallas, scoring 18 points in 17 minutes while knocking down 7 of 11 shots. He added three assists, too.

“[Porter]'s such a huge part for this team. He showed it tonight,” Tomas Satoransky said. “Even though we struggled at the beginning, I felt like we were progressing. Then he went down, and you have to make adjustments in the lineups. I hope he stays healthy.”

RELATED: Otto Porter Jr. shines in return, Bulls out-grind Mavericks

Zach LaVine missed his first game of the season with a strained quad but is expected back soon. Lauri Markkanen could also play as early as Wednesday in Minneapolis. With Denzel Valentine scoring a season-high 17 points in his first start of the season, there’s potential for something down the stretch.

That potential probably won’t resonate on any grand proclamation status, but executive vice president John Paxson is on record saying an evaluation period at something resembling full strength is important.

“Otto does what Otto does. He hits big shots and has a real feel to play the game. He’s got that skill level that we’ve missed,” head coach Jim Boylen said. “He has an ability to make shots, an ability to play in pick-and-roll. He has positional size. He has a calmness.”

Actually, Porter played with emotion and a joy that seemed fitting for someone who has been sidelined for the longest stretch of his injury-plagued career.

“I was very excited,” Porter said. “I felt good. There was nothing out there that I was like, ‘Oh, I’m rusty or something like that.’ I was out there just playing.”

So was Valentine, who has endured a trying season, being largely excluded from the rotation despite being healthy.

“I kind of just lean on my faith, lean on my camp and keep putting in that hard work,” Valentine said. “Sometimes your time isn’t now. But it’s going to come if you continue to be a good teammate and keep putting in work. I just keep trying to be a professional.

“Obviously, when you’re a starter and getting more minutes, it’s easier to be aggressive. I just wanted to play my role and help the team win.”

Who knows where all this simplification of goals might lead? But for one night, it produced a quality victory against a quality opponent

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Contact Us