While the NBA Summer League is the first chance for rookies to play NBA basketball and another chance for newer players to show they belong in the league, it’s also for veterans to show support for their young players. and workout with the coaching staff in Las Vegas.
Last weekend, the Milwaukee Bucks had four veteran players – Pat Connaughton, Wesley Matthews, Jordan Nwora and Bobby Portis – made the trip to Las Vegas. While Nwora remains in restricted free agency negotiations with the Bucks, Connaughton, Matthews and Portis all made contract decisions early in free agency to stay in Milwaukee for at least one more season.
Always supporting the team. 💯 pic.twitter.com/Pn5QSqtcOp
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 9, 2022
Of the three, Portis signed the biggest deal, a four-year, $49 million deal (with a player option in the fourth season, as reported Athleticism‘s Shams Charania) running through the 2025-26 season. This contract was the maximum amount the Bucks could offer Portis through his first Bird rights, but something other teams could exceed in their offers. Despite bigger offers from other teams, Portis remained in Milwaukee after the best season of his NBA career.
Portis, 27, started a career-high 59 games in the 2021-22 season, while hitting career highs in points (14.6), rebounds (9.1) and minutes (28.2 ) per game. On top of that, he remained one of the best high-volume 3-point big shots in the NBA, hitting 39.3% of his 4.7 3-point attempts per game.
With the decision made official, Portis took a few minutes to chat exclusively with Athleticism at halftime of the Bucks’ first summer league game last Friday. Here is that conversation, edited for brevity and clarity:
When you spoke with reporters in Milwaukee, you explained that you had never really been a coveted free agent and that it was different this time around, as several teams called trying to sign you. How was it for you?
It was fun, man. Basically, for four NBA seasons, I basically bet on myself: my fourth year, fifth year, sixth year, and seventh year, so finally being able to have financial security not just for myself but for my family is Great. To be able to go into free agency and have a number of teams call up and believe that I’m special and want me to join their team, that was cool too.
Even with all that interest, you decided to stay with the Bucks. What’s it like to find an NBA home in Milwaukee?
Being here for the past two years, on and off the pitch, has changed me. Made me a better player, a better man also off the pitch. Just being around good guys all about the good stuff, guys who are low maintenance, come in every day and work hard. Kinda hard to find that kind of vibe around the league going elsewhere, you just don’t know what it’s going to be like. And then just having good teammates and good coaches who believe in you, man. It’s hard to find it all in one place. And I basically have that here with the Bucks.
You mentioned the coaching staff. I know Mike Budenholzer can be hard on you sometimes, but it looks like you’ve formed a solid relationship. You have continued to improve over the past few years and have seen your role size increase. What does it mean to you to build a strong relationship with a coach?
I think the biggest thing with this organization, man, is they just let Bobby be Bobby. I’ve never had the chance to be myself everywhere I’ve been. My first two years in the league, it’s obviously tough when you’re trying to figure out your niche in the league, find a role, find a way to help the team and then you don’t really have a chance to grow with this team. They trade you, then you go to a few more teams where it’s not really a good situation for you, then you finally find a team where you can just be yourself. That’s what I like. My teammates just tell me to be me. My coaches want me to be me. The front office wants me to be me. It’s pretty cool to be able to be myself every day I arrive, whether it’s training, the cinema or the game.
For the most part, Bucks general manager Jon Horst just re-signed a group of his own players and fired a similar squad to last year. What does it mean for you to have an organization that seems to trust you to bring the team back to championship level without major changes?
I mean, we took the Celtics to seven games without an All-Star (Khris Middleton). It’s not a pat on the back or anything, but if we had it then, what would be the outcome? Nobody really knows. So I think it’s important for him (Horst) to want to come back with us. It’s good for us to have our same camaraderie, our same chemistry and I think another year with the same team will be good. Everyone knows their role, knows what they have to do to help the team win and for me personally, individually, I never really talk about myself, but for me personally it’s important to play with the same guy I played with. Knowing where my shots will come from, knowing what I need to improve on, knowing that in the playoffs last year the Celtics took some things away, so I need to strengthen areas of my game to improve and come back , just in case someone goes down and I need to step in and have a bigger role. It is what it is.
The only big addition you made was Joe Ingles and when he plays he likes to talk a little (trash). Do you feel like you’re gonna be able to feed off another guy who likes to talk (trash)?
It’ll be fun, man. Bullshit aside, man, he’s one hell of a player. Pick-and-roll demon. Can go down, finish with left hand. Make pocket passes, throw the lobs. You’ve seen him plenty of times, throwing the lob to Rudy Gobert many times, so you’ll probably see him with Giannis working in the pick-and-roll throwing the lob. And if the tagman takes him, we have the shooter in the upper quadrant, so it’s going to be fun to play with him and have another ball handler. I think that’s something we really needed last year in the playoffs when Khris went down – another guy who could handle the ball and create for others. Having a guy like that is going to be important for us. And he’s also a seasoned veteran.
Well, he can also work with you in the pick-and-pop, right?
Yeahhh. We have already talked about that. I don’t really like talking about myself like that, man, but I talked about it a lot with him. It’s definitely going to be fun. Playing with a guy who can really pass the ball and is really selfless. He’s tough too, tough as nails. Compete every day. And from what I know since I’ve played him for six or seven years in the league, he’s very competitive. He’s the kind of guy we need on our team, especially in the playoffs.
(Photo: David Butler II/USA Today)