DETROIT – Late Saturday night, Knicks big man Bobby Portis sat at his locker with his right hand wrapped heavily after “smacking” it on a dunk attempt during the Knicks’ Saturday night victory over the Pistons – their fourth straight triumph.
It’s been something of a painful season for Portis, who expected to build on his career year last season. Still, there are some nights when he’s a legitimate force on the glass and from 3-point range. Hence, the 6-foot-10 ex-Bull received interest at the trade deadline.
While nothing materialized because of his whopping one-year contract ($15 million), speculation centered on if he’d want a buyout to go to a title contender.
Not a chance. It’s more likely the Little Rock, Ark. native would eschew sweet tea for the unsweetened kind. Portis turns 25 Monday and said there’s plenty of time for him to win a title.
“I’m 24 years old,” Portis said in Detroit. “I’m not doing a buyout. I’ll make as much money as I can for my family. (I’m) 24. Not even thinking about a buyout at 24. I’ll probably set a record as first guy to do a buyout at 24. It’s just not even in the equation.”
Portis, ironically, was sitting next to veteran shooting guard Wayne Ellington, who is 32 and said before the win he does “have a decision to make” on whether to take a buyout. Ellington weaved his second straight hot-shooting night, draining 17 points in the Knicks’ 95-92 comeback victory
But Portis likes the team’s momentum (they are five games out of the No. 8 seed) and isn’t leaving so soon.
“I’m 24 years old,” he repeated. “I need as much a money as I can for my family, my mom, my brothers. I haven’t even thought about it. I don’t know who came up with that. People think I’m older than I am. I’m still a young player as well.”
Portis started the season in a struggle, coming off the bench and shooting errantly.
But Portis has had his moments the last month, lifting his 3-point percentage to 34.9 and scoring average to 9.4. He’s one of their legit 3-point threats. And his ruggedness has contributed to making the Knicks one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. He’s averaging 5.2 rebounds in 21 minutes
“I don’t like giving up on things,” Portis said. “I’m from the South. When you start something, you finish it. That’s my slogan my whole life. Through ups and downs, you ride through it. You can’t give up on something you signed up for. I’m up for the test.”
The Knicks’ firing of president Steve Mills last week and dumping their top gun Marcus Morris to the Clippers for future assets, including a first-round pick, sent a message the tanking/rebuilding was at hand. However, the Knicks are 2-0 since the Morris trade entering Sunday’s match in Atlanta.
“Not really,” Portis said when asked if the team will miss Morris a lot. “I averaged 13 (points) and 14 (points) the last two years. We have scorers who can score the ball but we want to share the basketball and be [a] team. Last four games we didn’t care who was the leading scorer. We wanted to just win the game. I feel our team is peaking in the right direction.”