CHICAGO – There was trade news at United Center Wednesday night, none of it made by the visiting New Orleans Pelicans and their currently-in-limbo all-NBA big man, Anthony Davis.
Davis was healthy, back in his hometown, yet listed as inactive, a nod to the league’s trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET Thursday – and the Pelicans’ resolve to keep Davis out of harm’s way, at least while overtures and discussions of his future whereabouts were active.
Davis, averaging 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds, has not played since January 18. He was cleared for Wednesday’s game after missing the past eight, the fracture in his left index finger finally healed. But he sat and watched in street clothes from the Pelicans bench as they beat Chicago 125-122.
It was left to the Bulls, instead, to swing a trade with the Washington, acquiring wing Otto Porter Jr. while sending big man Bobby Portis and forward Jabari Parker to the Wizards.
The deal left some Bulls fans scratching their heads as to Porter’s fit in the team’s timeline — and salary structure.
It had a few wondering, too, what might have been had the team gone shopping outside the P’s, alphabetically speaking.
Porter is a sixth-year veteran who’ll turn 26 in June and seemingly is out of sync — in pay, if not in age — with Chicago’s sputtering rebuild. He is owed more than $53 million over the next two seasons on a four-year, $106.5 million deal signed in July 2017 that reportedly includes a 15 percent trade kicker. It is a contract that was considered exorbitant the moment he signed it and one that Porter hasn’t exactly played up to, averaging 14 points, 6.1 rebounds and two assists in 30.7 minutes per game since then.
The money, however, signals two concerns for Chicago heading toward the summer:
- First, the Bulls’ sputtering rebuilding process isn’t likely to attract notable free agents, encouraging them to grab help where they could find it. Porter is a lengthy wing defender and has become a reliable 3-point shooter (42.3 percent the past three seasons).
- Second, they weren’t optimistic about re-signing Portis at their preferred price when he hits restricted free agency, given the number of teams that will have cap space and could bid up his price.
Portis, in his fourth season, averaged 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Bulls mostly off the bench, numbers that looked better — 18.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg per 36 minutes. Portis became a fan favorite at United Center for his energy and the little bit of crazy in his game.
He’s also the guy who slugged former teammate Nikola Mirotic in the 2017-18 preseason. When the Bulls felt compelled to trade one of the combatants, it was Portis they hung onto, shipping Mirotic to New Orleans.
Parker’s signing prior to this season was a failure, with the Bulls giving the No. 2 pick from 2014 and veteran of two left ACL surgeries a $20 million guarantee for this season (and mercifully for them, a team option on 2019-20). What they got was a scorer who openly disregarded his defensive responsibilities, a player who slipped quickly from starter to reserve to out of the rotation altogether under first coach Fred Hoiberg, then replacement Jim Boylen.
The Wizards, facing a harsh new reality with the news that point guard John Wall will miss at least 12 months after Achilles tendon surgery, took their first steps toward their own reset. They can test-drive Portis and Parker without obligations beyond this season and are free from the money owed on Porter’s deal.
Neither Boylen nor Bulls’ management spoke to reporters about the trade on Wednesday; the deal only become official after midnight.
Another Chicago player who might be hoping for a trade or buyout, center Robin Lopez, still was in residence late Wednesday. He was asked where he might wait out the final minutes, heading toward 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CT) time.
“I’m going to be asleep at 2 o’clock. What time’s the plane?” Lopez wondered, craning his neck to glimpse the white board in Chicago’s locker room. The team’s flight to Brooklyn for its game Friday was scheduled, sure enough, for 2 p.m. CT. Right at the deadline.
“Two o’clock? Yeah, I pass out right away when I get on the plane,” Lopez said, “so I might be asleep. Hopefully they don’t have to carry me off the plane.”