After meeting on the first night of free agency, Bobby Portis and the New York Knicks reached an agreement on a two-year deal worth $31 million (with a team option for the second season). Portis received interest from a number of other teams including the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, but he ultimately wanted to be in New York.
Last year with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, Portis averaged 14.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 three-pointers while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from deep. HoopsHype caught up with him to discuss his free-agency experience, decision to join the Knicks, expectations for this team and more.
What factors were you considering when you entered free agency and why did you ultimately sign with the New York Knicks?
Bobby Portis: I was just looking at the situation, the fit and the city. Obviously, as professional basketball players, we play this game to get paid and take care of our families, so that was kind of a factor. But at the same time, I wanted to be comfortable in the city that I was playing in. I wanted to be confident in the coaches. When I met Coach [David] Fizdale in person, that was big. I saw how genuinely happy he was to meet me and how much he wanted to be a Knick, so that factored in a lot as well. And I wanted to go somewhere I could come in and play.
We talked a bit throughout the process, but how was your free-agency experience overall?
BP: It was up and down, man. Each and every day, you feel different about certain situations. You’re hearing different teams are interested in you and it’s a possibility that you’re going to those teams. It was really up and down for me. I always try to stay even-keel, but I kind of got up and down a little bit [and I let it get to me] that I didn’t know what was going to happen. You’re wondering, “Am I going to be here? Am I going to be there?” I was kind of anxious and nervous at the same time, not knowing what would happen. But I landed in a great position that will allow my career to reach new heights.
I recently interviewed Elfrid Payton and he said that a lot of guys on this Knicks team have something to prove. What do you think of this team as a whole and do you feel people are underrating this group?
BP: Yeah, but I love being underrated, man. I’m an underdog. I say that every day. We’re the team that’s being counted out right now. People are looking past us. They’re talking about stars going to new teams and this and that, and that’s okay. Everybody on this team has a huge chip on their shoulder. We’re the guys who are always picked second. I think that’s going to make us close. Our practices are going to be top-notch; we’re all going to be competing and that’s going to make us better. We have a lot of dogs on this team, which will help us out as well. Collectively, we all have a chip on our shoulder – a log on our shoulder – so we’re going to go out there and play with an edge. I think that’s great for us.
Without any prompting, you and Elfrid both talked about how this team has “a lot of dogs.” It seems like that’s intentional and New York’s front office targeted a number of players with a similar mentality.
BP: I think that will help us a lot. When you step onto the floor and someone fouls you hard or something, it’s a big thing knowing that your teammates have your back and knowing that your teammates will go through a wall for you. That’s big. We know the next man has our back. I think when we step on the court, they’re going to feel us from day one. This is Knicks basketball. I think Knicks fans are in for a treat, for sure.
Do you think the playoffs are a realistic goal for this team in 2019-20?
BP: Yeah, for sure, for sure. The naysayers, the haters, the people who are doubting us will say that we’re crazy as hell for saying that. But we have a bunch of guys who are coming in each and every day with that log on their shoulder and that’s going to push us to become a great team. We have a lot of pieces who can play. I think we’re loaded at every position; there are two-to-three players who could start at every position. When you have that much talent, that rises the competitiveness and improves the team as a whole.
Fans in New York obviously wanted Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to join the Knicks. I talked about this with Elfrid too. He said he understands, but he’s also confident that fans will love with this team. What message do you have for Knicks fans who are unsure what to expect after this summer?
BP: Just stick with us. Any basketball team that has a chance to get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – or any superstar – would obviously try to get them. If you can get those guys, you get them. But you got us. You got a bunch of guys who are going to rep New York to the fullest. You got guys who are going to run through a brick wall for each other. You got guys who are going to play really hard each and every night and try to win games for New York. I think you guys are really itching for winning basketball. I know every player that the front office brought in is [hungry]. We’re going to embody New York basketball. I can’t wait to get there and get started.
RJ Barrett was impressive in Las Vegas during Summer League play. What do you think of his game and how good do you think he could be as a rookie?
BP: He could be a really great player in this league. He scores the basketball well, defends well and rebounds at a high level. Julius [Randle] and I are 24, so we’re still young but we also have experience. We’re not “veterans” yet because we’re still pretty young, but we’ve been around for a little while now. I think we can help the young guys by being around them every day, helping them do the right things each and guiding them each and every day. We’re going to show them the ropes and things like that. With RJ, I think the sky is the limit for him. He really has unlimited potential.
When you’re in a big market like New York, you always want to try to attract stars through free agency. Will you try to help recruit star players to the Knicks while you’re there?
BP: That’s not who I am as a person. I don’t try to recruit anybody to try to come play with me. I just go out there and play basketball. It’s something I love to do every day. I don’t really care who I’m playing with, I just want to have fun and reach my full potential as a basketball player. I’m not really worried about making friends or anything like that; that’s never been who I am. I’m just trying to be the best Knick possible every day and trying to help this team win games.
This frontcourt includes yourself, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Taj Gibson. Marcus Morris may play the four a bit too. What do you think of this group and how you guys complement each other?
BP: I’m really excited, man. Going into the season, I think you need three, four, five frontcourt players that can be interchangeable. The season is obviously a long haul and things happen; players get hurt and this and that. Over the course of a long season, you need depth. I think we have a lot of depth on this team, at every position. People are counting us out, but that’s cool. I love being counted out. We have a lot of players who are going to compete at a high level each and every night. We have a lot of talent on our roster. I think we’re being overlooked.
The Marcus Morris signing was a surprise considering how and when he joined the Knicks. What did you think of that addition?
BP: Man, it’s great. We’re adding another versatile guy to our roster who can help our chemistry and camaraderie. And it’s always good to add another dog to the team. In today’s NBA, it’s position-less basketball so we’re all going out there and playing freely, and we have a coach like Coach Fizdale who’s going to let us rock out and be ourselves.
This backcourt features a number of playmakers who were lottery picks not too long ago in RJ Barrett, Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton. What do you think of this backcourt and their playmaking ability?
BP: Having guys who love to get their teammates involved is always big, especially for bigs like us who love to score the basketball. I know if we just run the lane really hard with DSJ and Elfrid, they’re going to find us for sure. We’re going to learn each others’ games and get to know each other on a personal level and have that camaraderie from day one. I think that’s a big key for our season and will help us out tremendously.
Basketball, Free Agency, Interview, Knicks, NBA, Evergreen, Featured, Interview, Knicks, Top, Bobby Portis, David Fizdale, Dennis Smith Jr., Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, R.J. Barrett, Taj Gibson, New York Knicks