Smooth Move: Paul Millsap returns home right

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Credit: Aniello Piro

Shame on me, but before he became a Nugget, I had no idea – no clue – that Paul Millsap was one of our own.

Millsap is indeed a local; 12 years growing up in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood counts for me. Imagine how good the Montbello Warriors of the early 2000s might have been had Millsap not had to move back to his original home state of Louisiana?

I’m not sure what I like more: The fact that Millsap’s game fits the Nuggets like a glove, or that the 11-year NBA veteran held his “welcome” press conference with a twist.

I’ll go with “B.” How cool is it that a guy who’s set to make $90 million over the next three years put some real thought into how and where he wanted to meet his new (old) city? It would have been easy to stroll into the comfortable club level at Pepsi Center and meet the press in a more typical fashion. I’m not trying to make too big of a deal that Millsap chose Montbello instead.

But, in a way, it is a big deal. A very small gesture can show that someone gets the big picture.

Millsap has made the playoffs in nine of his 11 NBA seasons. That can’t, and shouldn’t, be understated. The Nuggets need Millsap’s scoring ability (18.1 ppg in 2016-17) and defensive prowess (a season ago, he was named to the second-team All-NBA defensive team), but they need a veteran leader more than either of those things. Yes, Nikola Jokic is future and focus of the Nuggets, but now more than ever he needs someone who can show him how to win. Millsap can not only help Jokic win, he can provide an example as to how it’s done.

On Sunday, March 26, I sat in Pepsi Center and watched the Nuggets blow their playoff chances (not mathematically, but practically) against the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that lacked newly acquired star DeMarcus Cousins. What I saw that day was a team that desparately needed a leader. They had the same young talent. They had Jokic. They had Jamal Murray pitching in 13 points. But they had nobody who could stop the bleeding. Nobody who could rally the troops, effectively saying, “Look fellas, we’re not losing to the Pelicans, with the playoffs on the line, at home…”

The Pelicans had nothing to play for that day. Denver was playing for everything.

I can’t help but think that a guy like Millsap would have made a major difference that day. A guy like Millsap understands the little things, in basketball and in general. Aside from talent, isn’t it those fractions of fractions that ultimately determine a playoff team? Sure, he’s got the basketball ability to make a huge difference, but for some reason, I’ve got this theory that there’s more to Millsap than just what you see on the court.

Maybe we saw a little of that on Thursday. Maybe a guy who puts just that little bit of extra thought into how he wants to introduce himself to his new city is the same guy who can will his team to win against New Orleans in late March when it matters most.

Maybe, just maybe, Montbello’s Paul Millsap is exactly what the runnin’ youngin’ Denver Nuggets need, right here, right now.

Featured Image Credit: Aniello Piro, Twitter

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