Speaking to Shams Charania of The Athletic about his experience as a free agent in 2020, Bucks forward Bobby Portis confirmed that the Knicks offered him a new contract after turning down his $15.75MM team option. However, he didn’t view New York as a “good situation” for him in 2019/20 and was unsure about whether the new leadership group (executives Leon Rose and William Wesley, along with head coach Tom Thibodeau) would change that.
“Obviously, Leon and (Wesley) and those guys were going to come in and try to change it around, but I just wanted to go to a winning culture and where I felt like I can fit in with guys,” Portis said. “I watched the bubble last season and I watched Milwaukee a lot, and I felt like it was a team I really fit on.
Joining the Bucks meant taking a substantial pay cut — Milwaukee had to fit in Portis using the bi-annual exception, meaning he earned just $3.6MM in 2020/21. However, the 26-year-old told Charania that he has saved money throughout his career and that a modest salary “wasn’t the biggest issue” for him, since he hopes to be playing in the NBA for another decade. After years of playing for lottery teams, Portis’ preference was to show he’s capable of contributing to a contender.
“I wanted to use this year as a get-back year for me just to get my name back,” Portis said. “An investment year. And so far, so good. It’s one of the best decisions of my career so far.”
Here are a few more of the most notable comments from Portis’ interview with Charania:
On how he and the Bucks began free agent talks last offseason:
“I actually hit Giannis (Antetokounmpo) up and told him I can come help the team and I can help everyone out. He went to the boss (front office) and told him come and get me.
“… I didn’t know Giannis much. So being able to reach out to him and him responding back was great. He was over in Greece. We were in two different time zones so I had to catch him when he was seven hours. I finally caught up with him, and everything worked out.”
On what changed his mindset and made him want to take a discount to play for a winning team:
“I think last year, the bubble did it for me. Years before, when my team didn’t make the playoffs, I was able to take my mind off of it. Going on a trip with my family or traveling or flying here and working out there. But last year when my team wasn’t invited to the bubble, I think that’s when I had enough of it because I was at home for f—ing nine months from March to November. No NBA games to play in, just straight working out. Watching the other teams that were invited in the bubble from home, that’s what really did it for me.”
On the 2017 incident when Portis punched Bulls teammate Nikola Mirotic in practice:
“Me and Mirotic, we always got into altercations. That wasn’t our first time. The guys in the front office knew that. That one was a little different. Some of the things that got misconstrued was that I sucker-punched him or whatever. The guys that were there at the time, they knew what happened. If it was that serious, they wouldn’t have offered me a contract extension.
“… What’s so crazy is me and (Mirotic) were balling together when he came back from injury. I haven’t talked to him ever since then, but no hard feelings at all my way. I was 22 at the time, and he was 26 or something. So we were both young guys. That’s a blur for me.”
On turning down a four-year contract extension (reportedly worth $40-50MM) from the Bulls prior to his fourth NBA season in 2018:
“If I knew then what I know now, I’d tell my younger self to take the extension. It’s life-changing money, money that can set my family up and generational wealth that can provide for generations to come. I wasn’t looking at it like that. I was looking at it like, ‘Oh, I think my worth is this and that.’ But really at the time, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sometimes, it works for people. I would’ve told myself to take it. I think it was a great fit for me. I had a very good connection with the Bulls.”