A year ago, Bobby Portis was back home in Little Rock, Arkansas, ticked off that the Knicks weren’t invited back to the Orlando bubble for the season’s restart due to their 21-45 record. Portis had been finally feeling his groove in his first season with New York when their season abruptly ended on March 11, 2020 in Atlanta.
On a late July night at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum, Portis was on a championship ceremony podium with commissioner Adam Silver, Giannis Antetokounmpo and 17,000 fans chanting “Bob-by, Bob-by’’ after he scored 16 points off the bench to help key the Bucks’ Game 6 victory.
“I was really depressed, really down, not being invited to the bubble with my team,’’ Portis told the Bucks crowd. “I worked out for months and I found peace in my life. Coming here was the best thing that ever happened to me, man.”
Later at the press conference, Portis acknowledged his redemption season in Brew City may not have happened. He confirmed a report from The Post that the Knicks made him a higher offer than the Bucks during free agency. Portis signed a two-year, 7.5 million deal (the second year is a player option) with Milwaukee to attempt to break the Bucks’ 50-year title curse.
“I knew it was the right place when I made the decision,’’ Portis said. “Fun fact, like fun little quick story. During free agency — actually, before free agency — the Knicks turned down my ($15M) team option and they wanted to sign me to another deal and it was pretty nice money. But I wasn’t really worried about the money. Sometimes money isn’t everything. It’s about happiness. I found happiness here.‘’
Whether Portis goes for the money in August and turns down his option remains to be seen, but he felt he fit like a glove in Milwaukee. If Obi Toppin is traded in a Collin Sexton deal, the Knicks could even have renewed interest in the prototype stretch 4 if he’s a free agent as expected.
“When I first got here, I felt welcome and I felt loved,’’ Portis said of Milwaukee. “The guys made me at home and the coaches made me comfortable. I get to be myself every day, just be energetic. Guys on my team, they are kind of quiet guys. There’s not many guys like me that are outgoing and really bring what I bring to the table with energy.’’
Some of the Bucks players began wearing “Bob-by’’ T-shirts during this year’s Finals as the chants gained steam. During the regular season, Portis became a Sixth Man of The Year candidate, averaging 11.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and shot a career-high 52.3 percent. He also posted a career-high from 3 (47.1%), which ranked third in the NBA.
Asked if he wants to return to Milwaukee, Portis said, “It sure is, man. I love the Bobby chants: ‘Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.’ I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but right now, I’m just worried about being called a champion and knowing where I come from.’’
The journey included a second-round series vs. the Nets when coach Mike Budenholzer gave Portis a DNP the final three games.
“Bobby went from not playing in the Brooklyn series, essentially the last three games to being such a huge contributor in the Atlanta series, in this series against Phoenix,’’ Bucks center and ex-Net Brook Lopez said. “That’s the kind of selflessness and unselfishness that the entire team has.’’