If this carefree, dynamic, and dominant-for-stretches, Bobby Portis, looks different than the Portis that previously was brooding and boorish, it’s because he is, in fact, very much a changed man. Winning a championship last July with the Milwaukee Bucks, Portis stressed, can have that sort of effect on a player.
A key cog on a Bucks team that won it all last summer, Portis has taken another big step in revitalizing his career this season. Filling in for the injured Brook Lopez, the 26-year-old Portis is averaging career highs in points (15.3), rebounds (8.9), and made 3-pointers a game (2.0).
Bobby Portis said joining and re-signing with the Milwaukee Bucks ‘definitely changed everything for me’
Winning it all last summer with the Milwaukee Bucks made basketball fun again for Bobby Portis, who struggled with anger and immaturity issues early in his career. The fact that the Bucks believed in him enough to make him a key cog in last season’s title run and even more so in this season’s defense, Portis’ confidence has blossomed, and his megawatt smile had shined even brighter.
“Coming to Milwaukee, and being a Buck, man, that definitely changed everything for me,” the seventh-year pro said. “They’ve allowed me to stay true to me and who I am, and sometimes you can’t really even put a tab on that. I’m just grateful and ecstatic about being here.”
Portis bounced around between Chicago, Washington, and New York and looked one step from being out of the league before landing in Milwaukee.
With the Bucks, Portis is as beloved by the Milwaukee faithful as he is among team leaders Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton. Portis has become a cult figure in Milwaukee with fans there howling, “Bob-bee! Bob-bee!” as soon as he drills his first 3-pointer.
On Friday, Portis again showed off his enormous firepower when he poured in 20 of his 25 points in the first half of Milwaukee’s beatdown of the Brooklyn Nets. He made nine of 16 shots, two of five 3-point tries, and connected on all five of his free throws as the Bucks easily won the rematch between two teams that faced off in the playoffs last summer.
For years, Bobby Portis has tried to get past his lowest moment and shed his negative image
Bobby Portis was the Chicago Bulls’ 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. Even though he showed flashes of potentially being a big-time scorer, Portis was mostly miserable and bedeviled by his immaturity while with the rebuilding Bulls.
The lowest moment of Portis’s career came in October of 2017 when he and teammate Nikola Mirotic got into it in practice. Ultimately, Portis hit Mirotic with a punch to the eye socket that his fellow forward never saw coming and needed hospital attention afterward. Portis was suspended for eight games by the Bulls, but the punishment for the ugly incident haunted him for a much longer period.
Coming to Milwaukee, and winning with the Bucks, Portis escaped his past and affixed his focus on the present.
“With all the highs and lows of my career, I got labeled as a guy who was always mean and mad, and that I sucker-punched a guy or whatever,” Portis said. “So, I got labeled as that for years.
“It’s been cool to come to a championship team and impact winning,” Portis continued. “I’ve been able to play with force and compete for a championship. (Last season’s title) definitely changed the direction of my career, and I’m forever grateful for that.”
A back injury to Brook Lopez opened up an opportunity for Bobby Portis and he’s posted career scoring and shooting numbers
Inspired by the way Portis played in last summer’s NBA Finals, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer toyed with the idea of giving the sweet-shooting forward more opportunities this season. And that opportunity became a reality when Brook Lopez suffered a back injury that required surgery.
Milwaukee re-signed Portis this past summer — with a major recruiting push coming in from Antetokounmpo — to keep the versatile center/forward in its core. Budenholzer also convinced Portis that he was a great perimeter shooter and that he should be taking — and making — significantly more 3-pointers. First, however, Budenholzer wanted Portis to work all summer on speeding up his release to be ready for the increased workload, and the forward obliged.
Portis has taken advantage of the wide-open looks that have come after defenses have focused on Milwaukee’s “Big 3.” Thus far, he’s shooting a robust 43.7% from 3-point range and 47.9% overall. He scored at least 20 points six times this season, topped by the 28 he had in November against the Detroit Pistons and his 25 points on Friday in Brooklyn.
Yep, Bobby Portis has changed — both as a basketball player and a person. He said the Bucks deserve that credit for that because of the faith that they showed in him without judging him on his sordid Chicago past. Milwaukee felt so comfortable with Portis in their rotation that they waived veteran center DeMarcus Cousins to create some roster flexibility before the NBA Trade Deadline.
“It’s everybody’s goal to play in the championship like we did last year,” Portis said. “Each and every round of the playoffs will give you something different, so it’s a hard journey, but this is what makes basketball fun.
“We played until July last year, and we want to be there in June this year,” he added. “We’ve got a lot of good basketball left in us. We haven’t peaked yet, and then once the playoffs start, that’s the real fun right there. I’m having fun, and I can’t wait for it.”
All quotes in the story were attained firsthand.
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com