Bobby Portis

Bucks Notes: Lillard, Giannis, Roster Spot, Holiday

Pairing Damian Lillard with Giannis Antetokounmpo should create plenty of scoring opportunities for the rest of the Bucks‘ offense, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Both players averaged better than 30 points per game last season, so while they’ll have to figure out how to mesh their talents, they provide plenty of individual firepower.

Lillard is a reliable shot maker who will cause opponents to be more reluctant about sagging into the lane to guard Antetokounmpo. Outside shooters Malik Beasley, Pat Connaughton and A.J. Green should all get better looks by playing alongside Lillard, Owczarski notes, while Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis become more dangerous in pick-and-pop actions.

Exchanging Jrue Holiday for Lillard will lead to a drop-off defensively, but Owczarski points out that new head coach Adrian Griffin is installing a system that emphasizes help. With Antetokounmpo and Lopez protecting the rim, the Bucks may be able to cover up Lillard’s shortcomings on defense.

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • The Bucks sent Grayson Allen to Phoenix in the three-team deal, leaving them with 14 guaranteed contracts and the ability to make a roster addition, Owczarski adds. He notes that the team doesn’t have a reserve point guard with a guaranteed deal, so that might be a priority. Backups Lindell Wigginton and TyTy Washington both have two-way contracts. Milwaukee doesn’t control any of its first-round picks until 2031, so it will be difficult to improve the roster through any more trades.
  • Hundreds of fans waited for hours outside Fiserv Forum on Saturday for a chance to welcome Lillard to Milwaukee, according to Jack Baer of Yahoo Sports. Lillard acknowledged the crowd, but he didn’t say anything as he walked inside to meet his new team. The Bucks posted a video of Lillard taking a few shots inside the arena.
  • Holiday offered a farewell message on Instagram after the trade became official, per JR Radcliffe of The Journal-Sentinel. “Thank you fans! For those who know me best, they know we are all about family,” Holiday wrote. “Milwaukee — you welcomed me and my family into your city, into your homes, into your hearts. We will forever be champions together, and me and my family will forever be grateful and thankful. Until next time, thanks for everything.”

Team USA Notes: Lithuania Matchup, Edwards, Kessler, Bridges

Team USA got its toughest World Cup test so far in Friday’s win over Montenegro, and another challenge awaits on Sunday against Lithuania, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The Americans will be the de facto top seed if they can reach the quarterfinal round with a perfect record, but Lithuania is also in contention for that honor after going 3-0 in pool play and crushing Greece on Friday.

The U.S. hasn’t fared well against larger teams, which will be an issue when it faces Jonas Valanciunas and the Lithuanians. Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and 16 rebounds for Montenegro on Friday while getting Jaren Jackson Jr. in early foul trouble. Lithuania is the top rebounding team in the tournament and has six players who are at least 6’9″.

Vardon suggests that head coach Steve Kerr might consider a lineup change, starting either Paolo Banchero or Bobby Portis alongside Jackson to get more size on the court. But that would take away the advantage in transition offense that allows the Americans to get so many fast break points.

“We understand teams are gonna try to be physical and slow the game down, and (Montenegro) did a good job of that,” Kerr said. “But our whole thing is we feel like over 40 minutes, we can wear the other team down if we stay solid.”

There’s more on Team USA:

  • Anthony Edwards led the rally against Montenegro with 17 points in the second half, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The Timberwolves guard has emerged as the team’s primary scoring option, but he’s not making a big deal out of the role. “It’s a team sport,” Edwards said. “If I wanted to punch my chest and do that, I’d go play golf or tennis or swimming like Michael Phelps. I’d go do something that’s an individual sport. But it takes five guys to win a basketball game.”
  • Walker Kessler thought he might be getting bad news when Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said he had a phone call for him, per Ryan Kostecka of Instead, it was head coach Will Hardy on the other end of the line informing Kessler that he had been selected to the World Cup team. “I was kind of freaking out, thinking I might get traded, but then he said it was coach,” Kessler said. “He then told me congrats on making the USA team. … I was definitely kind of speechless, but here I am.”
  • Mikal Bridges told Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops that the depth of talent on the U.S. roster creates difficult matchups for other teams. “It makes it so tough to beat,” Bridges said. “Even if the starters struggle, we have guys from the bench who are gonna play better than the starters.”

Central Notes: Portis, Pistons, White, Carter

Bucks reserve big man Bobby Portis recently spoke about his experience playing on the FIBA World Cup roster for Team USA, as Aris Barkas of Eurohoops writes.

Portis reflected on how this year’s iteration of Team USA hopes to improve on its 2019 predecessor’s No. 7 finish in the most recent World Cup.

“This is a totally different team, not one guy who played in that FIBA World Cup team is on this team and we are just trying to re-identify ourselves, play for each other, play for the name in front of the jersey and that’s the biggest things in those tournaments,” Portis said.

Portis went on to acknowledge that he has something of an international following, especially from the fans of Team USA’s next scheduled opponent, Team Greece, thanks to his Milwaukee comrades Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

“Giannis and Thanasis are like my brothers and, during the season, I go through my social media and I see tons of fans from Greece, tagging me in photos, DMing me, so it’s pretty cool to see fans from all over the world being fans of myself,” Portis said.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • After several lottery-bound seasons, the Pistons are hoping to take a leap with a talented young roster. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press identifies five Detroit players who – to his mind – have the most to prove in 2023/24, including 2021 No. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham, who missed most of last season due to an injury; recently re-signed big man Isaiah Stewart; and former top-10 selections Killian Hayes and James Wiseman.
  • With Coby White now re-signed to a lucrative, multi-year contract, and 3-and-D Chicago native Jevon Carter also in the fold, the Bulls will have a major positional battle for their starting point guard role when training camp tips off, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley notes that White may have a bit of an edge thanks to his built-in chemistry with his teammates, most notably another re-signed Bull, center Nikola Vucevic, in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop actions.
  • In case you missed it, Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball expressed his belief that he will, at some point, return to the hardwood. Ball has been sidelined since January 2022 with a knee injury, and three surgeries later, he has already been ruled out for the entirety of the 2023/24 season.

Bucks’ Bobby Portis Talks Team USA, Contract, Griffin

Bucks big man Bobby Portis is one of 12 players suiting up for the USA Basketball team that will compete in the 2023 World Cup that tips off next week.

Speaking to Sam Yip of HoopsHype, Portis said that it has been “pretty great” representing his country in international competition so far and that the team is still focused on building chemistry and adjusting to the FIBA rules as it gears up for group play.

In his conversation with Yip, Portis also addressed his role as Team USA’s de facto veteran leader, the Bucks’ new head coach, and a handful of other topics. Here are a few highlights:

On what’s expected of him as Team USA’s elder statesman at age 28:

“Man, I just come in every day and be Bobby Portis. That’s all I know how to be, since day one, in my time in the league, man. I’ve never changed who I am, stay true to myself, work on my game each and every year and get better. And try to be a leader working on my leadership qualities over the last three, four years in the league, especially when I got to the Bucks being around great savvy vets like Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Brook Lopez, Jrue [Holiday], Khris [Middleton], all my guys. The core group of guys, those guys, let me kind of be myself. Let me have a voice. And it’s been cool, man. So, my role on this team is to be Bobby, man. It’s all I know how to be.”

On whether signing a four-year, $48.6MM contract in 2022 gave him a sense of validation:

“I mean, yeah, but every year is a prove-it year, man. Just because you got a deal doesn’t mean you got to stop working and keep building brick by brick. Keep chopping wood and carrying water, that’s the motto. Can’t get complacent, can’t get comfortable in the league.

“There are 40, 50, 60 guys that want to have a guaranteed spot every year on a new team. And there’s gonna be 40, 50, 60 guys that are going to get pushed out. So gotta keep getting better each and every year. Can’t be satisfied with whatever you need to be. Whether it is $20 million, $100 million, $200 million. Gotta keep going. Gotta keep chopping wood and getting better.”

On what he hopes new head coach Adrian Griffin brings to Milwaukee:

“I don’t like to compare the past and the future, but I just hope he lets us be us, and be the player-driven team. We have a lot of guys on our team that’s done this before, so we kind of know what it takes to get to that next level. Our biggest thing on the Bucks is just staying healthy. No matter who it is that’s coaching whatever it is, we got to be healthy.”

World Cup Notes: Team USA, Portis, K. Antetokounmpo, Poirier

Team USA enjoyed its second straight rout in exhibition play ahead of the FIBA World Cup, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The Americans pulled away in the second half Saturday for a 30-point win over a Slovenian team without Luka Doncic, who sat out the game with a minor knee issue.

Combined with Monday’s victory over Puerto Rico, the U.S. has outscored its opponents by 73 points in two games. The competition will get tougher in today’s matchup with Spain, but head coach Steve Kerr is happy to see his players buy into a team concept so quickly.

“We put together the team with the idea of having a lot of good passers and play-makers,” Kerr said. “And with this team, we’ve seen through the first two exhibition games, everybody can pass. And so we really want to push the tempo and attack closeouts because once we put it on the floor, we know these guys will distribute it and move it all over again.

“And you know, I thought we almost overdid it tonight. I thought at times we had over threes and we drove and kicked it down, which as a coach, you never want to criticize your players for that because you’re always trying to get them involved.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • Bobby Portis is disappointed that he won’t get to match up with Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo when Team USA faces Greece in an exhibition contest next week and again in pool play, Vardon adds. Antetokounmpo announced Friday that he will miss the World Cup as he continues to recover from minor knee surgery. “Obviously I’m sad, he’s sad, that he can’t play in the World Cup, but maybe that’s good for the Bucks,” Portis said.
  • Greece will also be without Kostas Antetokounmpo, who was declared out with an injury on Sunday, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. A former NBA player with the Mavericks and Lakers, Antetokounmpo represented Greece in last year’s EuroBasket and the Olympic qualifying tournament in 2021.
  • Former Celtics and Sixers center Vincent Poirier has joined the French team because of uncertainty surrounding Knicks draft-and-stash player Mathias Lessort, who is sidelined with an ankle issue, per Eurohoops. France is also adding Isaïa Cordinier in the wake of Frank Ntilikina‘s hamstring injury.

Edwards, Haliburton, Reaves Commit To Team USA

Timberwolves All-Star guard Anthony Edwards and Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton are among the players who have committed to Team USA this summer, Joe Vardon and Shams Charania of The Athletic report. Team USA will compete for the FIBA World Cup in the Philippines.

Lakers shooting guard and restricted free agent Austin Reaves, Nets forward Mikal Bridges and Bucks forward Bobby Portis have also made commitments.

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson has pledged to play for Team USA as well, according to Marc Stein (Twitter link).

The 12-man roster is still being assembled by USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill and no roster additions have been formally announced yet.

Edwards, who averaged 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season, was a member of the USA Select Team for the Tokyo Olympics. Team USA has begun to prioritize bigger guards who can hold their own defensively and shoot well from the perimeter in international competitions, according to The Athletic duo. Edwards and Reaves fit that mold.

Team USA begins training camp Aug. 3 in Las Vegas, plays its first exhibition game Aug. 7 against Puerto Rico and will also make stops in Spain and the United Arab Emirates before its World Cup opener Aug. 26 against New Zealand.

Bucks Notes: Middleton, Lopez, Draft, Besson, Quinn

If the Bucks are determined to re-sign Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, they may have to trade at least one of their mid-level salaries to avoid the punitive restrictions in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Milwaukee already has $114.78MM committed to six players for next season, putting the team in sight of the projected $134MM salary cap.

The Bucks are about to pay the luxury tax for the third straight year, so they have to be mindful of the repeater penalties that will kick in if they top next season’s projected tax threshold of $162MM. Nehm notes that it will be almost impossible to stay under that number if Middleton picks up his $40.4MM player option, especially with Lopez seeking an increase on the $13.9MM he made this season. Middleton could also agree to decline the option and work out a long-term deal with a smaller salary for next year.

Nehm adds that the next figure to be concerned about is $179.5MM, which is where the new second apron is projected to begin. He notes that if the Bucks reach $170.18MM in salary with eight players, they won’t be able to offer an outside free agent more than a minimum contract, which is projected at $1.99MM for 2023/24, without going into the second apron.

If general manger Jon Horst chooses to unload salary to ease the team’s financial burden, Nehm sees Bobby Portis ($11.71MM next season), Pat Connaughton ($9.24MM) and Grayson Allen ($8.93MM) as the most likely to be traded.

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Horst and his staff are going through draft preparations even though the Bucks only hold the 58th and final pick, per Jim Owczarski of The Journal-Sentinel. Horst wants the team to be ready for any scenario that might occur on draft night. “It’s not unforeseeable that we could acquire a first-round pick in some sort of deal that we execute prior to or at the draft, and they have to be ready for that,” he said. “We obviously possess a pick at the end of the second round. We have to be ready for that. But also, the trades and things that happen from a personnel, an NBA personnel standpoint, be ready for that.”
  • The Bucks are continuing to monitor the progress of Hugo Besson, who was selected at No. 58 last year and was acquired from the Pacers for cash considerations, Owczarski adds. The French guard played four Summer League games for Milwaukee in 2022 and then joined Victor Wembanyama on Metropolitans 92.
  • Heat assistant Chris Quinn could be a name to watch in the Bucks’ coaching search if he can convince ownership that he can translate some of Miami’s toughness to Milwaukee, suggests Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News.
  • In case you missed it, University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson and Wizards assistant Joseph Blair are the Bucks’ latest interviewees.

Celtics’ Malcolm Brogdon Named Sixth Man Of The Year

Celtics reserve combo guard Malcolm Brogdon has been named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year for 2022/23, the league announced on Thursday (Twitter link).

In his first season with the Celtics following a 2022 trade from Indiana, Brogdon averaged 14.9 PPG on .484/.444/.870 shooting splits. Across 67 games, the 6’5″ guard also chipped in 4.2 RPG, 3.7 APG and 0.7 SPG, and was a critical component on both sides of the ball during Boston’s 57-25 season.

Brogdon is the first Celtic to win the honor since eventual Hall of Fame center Bill Walton did so for the 1986 title team, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Brogdon’s Celtics are currently leading the Hawks 2-0 in their ongoing first-round playoff series.

As the NBA announced last week, the three finalists for the honor were Brogdon, Bucks backup big man Bobby Portis, and Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley. Each would have been a first-time winner.

According to the NBA, Quickley was the runner-up in Sixth Man voting over Portis, Clippers guard Norman Powell and Kings guard Malik Monk. Brogdon received 60 first-place votes and 408 overall points, while Quickley got 34 first-place votes and 326 points. Portis earned the remaining six first-place votes and 97 points.

A total of 10 players earned at least one vote.

Earlier this week, All-Star Grizzlies power forward/center Jaren Jackson Jr. was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, All-Star Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox was honored as the NBA’s first-ever Clutch Player of the Year, and his Sacramento head coach Mike Brown won his second Coach of the Year award.

A global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters voted on all of this season’s awards recipients. The Rookie of the Year, MVP and Executive of the Year have yet to be named.

NBA Announces 2022/23 Award Finalists

The NBA announced its finalists for all the major 2022/23 regular season awards on Friday evening (all Twitter links can be found here).

Here is the full list of finalists for each of the awards, listed in alphabetical order:

Most Valuable Player

Defensive Player of the Year

Rookie of the Year

Most Improved Player

Sixth Man of the Year

Coach of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

TNT will begin announcing the winners next week during its coverage of the 2023 playoffs, according to the NBA. The three finalists for each award are based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

Antetokounmpo, the league’s back-to-back MVP winner in 2018/19 and ’19/20, has finished fourth and third in MVP voting over the past two seasons, respectively. He averaged a career-high 31.1 PPG along with 11.8 RPG and 5.7 APG on .553/.275/.645 shooting in 63 games (32.1 MPG) this season in leading the Bucks to the NBA’s best record at 58-24.

Embiid, the MVP runner-up in each of the past two years, led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season, posting a career-high 33.1 PPG along with 10.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.7 BPG on .548/.330/.857 shooting in 66 games (34.6 MPG). The Sixers finished third in the East with a 54-28 record, though it’s worth noting that record is also the third-best mark in the league.

Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, averaged 24.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 9.8 APG and 1.3 SPG on .632/.383/.822 shooting in 69 games (33.7. MPG). In addition to breaking Wilt Chamberlain‘s record for most assists per game by a center (8.6), Jokic led the Nuggets to the top seed in the West with a 53-29 record.

It’s long been assumed that Banchero, Brown and Fox were the runaway favorites for their respective awards. Given Embiid’s excellent play to end the season and Denver’s stumble to the finish line, it seems likely that Embiid will edge out Jokic and Antetokounmpo to win his first MVP — all three finalists are more than deserving, just as they were last year.

However, the other three awards are more up in the air. Jackson and Lopez have been considered the betting favorites for DPOY for much of the second half of the season. Mobley’s inclusion is somewhat surprising, but maybe it shouldn’t be — the Cavs finished with the league’s top defense and he is arguably the best defender on the team.

Kawhi Leonard, Bobby Portis Named Players Of The Week

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Bucks forward/center Bobby Portis have been named the NBA’s players of the week, the league announced today (via Twitter).

Leonard averaged 25.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists on .491/.389/.842 shooting in leading the Clippers to a 3-0 record last week. They secured the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and will face Phoenix in the first round.

In 52 games this season, the two-time Finals MVP averaged 23.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals on .512/.416/.871 shooting. Leonard is under contract at $45.6MM in 2023/24 and holds a $48.8MM player option for ’24/25.

Portis, the East’s winner, averaged 20.0 points and 12.3 boards on .447/.591/.636 shooting in three games last week. The Bucks went 2-1 in those contests and 2-2 overall last week, resting some key players as they locked up the NBA’s top overall seed for the playoffs.

The 28-year-old averaged 14.1 points and a career-high 9.6 rebounds on .496/.370/.768 shooting in 70 games this season, primarily off the bench (22 starts, 26.0 minutes). The veteran big man should get some votes for Sixth Man of the Year following his strong regular season. Portis is under contract through at least ’24/25 with a player option for ’25/26.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), the other nominees in the West were Stephen Curry, Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram and LeBron James, while Jimmy Butler, Portis’ teammate Jrue Holiday, Immanuel Quickley and Pascal Siakam were nominated in the East.