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Ex-Knick Bobby Portis will likely get to be a free agent again this summer, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Tom Thibodeau’s club has at least some interest.
His free-agent decision last November, turning down the Knicks’ offer to join the Bucks, has worked out, even if he missed the Knicks’ Thibodeau Revival Tour.
Portis signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal with a second-year player option and has increased his market value for this August.
Portis, the new prototype stretch 4, became one of the league’s top sixth men, and got his first playoff taste since 2016. In the regular season, the 6-foot-11 big man out of Arkansas averaged 11.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and shot a career-high 52.3 percent. He also posted a career-high from 3 (47.1 percent), which ranked third in the NBA.
In this series against the Nets, Portis has played less than in the regular season with coach Mike Budenholzer leaning more on his starters.
In the previous two games entering Game 5, Portis has played 11 minutes in each contest. He was scoreless in Game 4, missing all three of his shots despite two early blocks. He averaged 21 minutes in the regular season — just 16 minutes in eight playoff games.
“It doesn’t matter how many minutes I play, I still try to play as hard I can,” Portis said. “Getting a big rebound or a big play. Just having fun with the game, knowing there is a bigger picture right now.”
Portis’ miniscule playoff experience could be a factor in his minutes drop.
“Coach is going with the guys he’s leaning on the most,” Portis said. “In the NBA you have to play a role and right now I know the minutes aren’t there for me but still try to play the game I love, if it’s five or seven minutes. I let the dominos fall the way they fall. You can’t control the minutes but can control how hard you play in those minutes.”
Portis could still vault into being an X factor with the series tied at 2 entering Game 5 Tuesday in Brooklyn, especially since Giannis Antetokounmpo is no longer able to make a 3-pointer.
The Knicks were open to having Portis return after they declined his option of $15 million for this season. But they had Julius Randle at power forward and were grooming rookie Obi Toppin.
It’s conceivable the Knicks make a play for Portis this August at the right dollars, with Knicks GM Scott Perry still having a voice. Toppin is a work in progress, center Nerlens Noel is a free agent, and the Knicks are completely in win-now mode.
Portis has said he turned down larger offers to come to Milwaukee, where he played 66 games. In his lone season with the Knicks, Portis also played all 66 games in a pandemic-shortened season, averaged 10.1 points, shot 45 percent and 35 percent from 3.
On social media, Portis made statements after the Bucks’ signing he felt he could have used more minutes in New York.
Then, after his 13-and-12 game with Milwaukee this season, a Knicks fan messaged him on Instagram: “You should’ve done that with the Knicks last year.”
Portis’ reply: “Too many power forwards.”
Portis finally got a taste of a full-capacity Fiserve Forum during this second-round series when the Bucks hosted 16,000-plus in Games 3 and 4. The Bucks won both.
“Having that home-court advantage to our advantage is key,” Portis said. “The visiting team could really feel it. You can’t hear their plays being called. I had a blast. Seeing the same capacity outside watching on the TV, that’s really cool, too.”
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