“I have to be smarter about it”: Millsap’s availability in doubt after playing through knee issue

Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) warms up before a game Orlando Magic at the Pepsi Center.
Dec 18, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) warms up before a game Orlando Magic at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Even after 14 years and nearly 1000 regular season games, Denver Nuggets starting power forward and wise veteran leader Paul Millsap is still being taught new lessons by the game he loves.

After colliding with teammate Jamal Murray against the Minnesota Timberwolves back on December 20th, Millsap sustained a left knee contusion which has led to him missing three of Denver’s last 11 games including the Nuggets most recent win on the road against the Dallas Mavericks.

Millsap — who has rarely missed games due to injury over his 14-year career — is now trying to figure out what his body is telling him. For years, he has made the choice to play through nagging injuries, but as he gets older, his decision making when it comes to various bumps and bruises has had to shift.

That is why, when asked to specify what injury he is dealing with, Millsap chose to open up about his most recent mistake of trying to play through a left knee contusion that has been bothering him for exactly three weeks at the time of this writing.

“Same left knee contusion,” Millsap explained when asked what exactly he is dealing with. “I probably should have gotten it taken care of and sat down and made sure it was good at that time. So now there is a little lingering effect to it and some little things going on because of it.”

(Millsap did not reveal what other “little things” he is dealing with because of his insistence on playing through his left knee contusion, but it is something to monitor over the coming weeks.)

Millsap is not the type of player who willingly misses games that he is healthy enough to play in. For better or worse, Millsap does everything within his power to make sure he is on the floor to do what he can to help the Nuggets continue to rack up wins, but he is now coming to terms with the fact that playing through injuries is more often than not a bad decision.

“For me, it was always if I am able to play and move, I am going to play,” Millsap explained. “It is not always the smartest decision; especially when you have swelling going around in your knee. There are too many moving parts in the knee to really jeopardize it. I just need to get smarter about the decisions of getting out there to play and when not to play.”

That is why this current left knee contusion that he is dealing with has been so eye-opening for Millsap despite the wealth of knowledge about the NBA game that he possesses.

“It put me to a point that I have to take it slow,” Millsap explained. “I want to be out there with my team, but big-picture wise I have to be smarter about it. I wish I would have done it the first time, but it is what it is. I love to play and any time I have an opportunity to get out there and play, I will do so, but it put me into a predicament to where I have to take it slow and make sure it is right.”

Now, the question becomes more about Millsap’s availability, which is uncertain going into Denver’s home matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I don’t know,” Millsap stated when asked about his availability. “We’ll see.”

While that sounds potentially worrisome, Millsap does not have any doubt that his knee will be fine eventually. He has no long term concerns at this time.

“I have no doubt that my knee is going to be fine,” Millsap explained. “Right now it is short term versus long term. Not getting out there too fast or jeopardizing the entire season or something of that nature.

“Best case scenario is just to sit down and make sure I am fully healthy.”

Malone also noted that Millsap’s injury is not something that he is concerned with and that he feels that the training staff is being precautionary, but with that being said, Malone is also coming to terms with the fact that he needs to get Millsap not only the rest he needs, but also the rest that he deserves.

“I think right now it is more precautionary, but I have to get a little bit better of an understanding from the training staff,” Malone explained. “He and Jamal collided I think in the Minnesota game and it is just not going away. There is some swelling in there and some discomfort so I think the rational and patient approach is just to, ‘what is the rush?’ Let’s get him right. Hopefully we are a team that can make the playoffs and play deep into the playoffs and we are going to need Paul to do that.

Right now, I think it is just more of getting him the rest he needs and deserves to make sure his knee is right.”

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