Paul Millsap was free, so why not fly to Las Vegas, hang out at summer league games and take in one being played by his new team, the Denver Nuggets?
So, on Monday, he did.
In the process, he caused a huge buzz among Nuggets fans and media in attendance at Cox Pavilion who, focused on him, temporarily forgot about the game being played. Millsap’s presence was not lost on anyone, and the Nuggets are eager to get him on the court.
“You see what he does,” shooting guard Gary Harris said “He’s a four-time All-Star. He can play on both sides of the floor, defensively, offensively. He’s not an All-Star for no reason, so definitely for him to bring that to this team, especially with the young guys that we have, is huge.
“We had to get better coming into the offseason – individually as players we had to get better, and the front office did a great job putting pieces around us to make us better as a whole. Adding Millsap definitely helps us out. I’m looking forward to the season starting.”
Millsap is the Nuggets’ biggest free agent signing in a long time.
“He is a guy that has been on a lot of good basketball teams,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “He’s been on a lot of teams that have gone deep into the playoffs, 87 playoff games played.”
Malone is most looking forward to Millsap’s impact on a Nuggets defense that is looking for significant improvement over last season.
“From an experience standpoint, and the fact that he’s a guy that I think will be able to communicate and help us on the defensive end, kind of be an anchor to our defense, a traffic cop and kind of orchestrate where guys are supposed to be,” Malone said. “He’s a guy that embraces the challenge. When you want to improve defensively it starts with each individual taking on the responsibility of saying ‘I’m going to own my matchup tonight.’ I think Paul does that. His IQ and experience alone are going to help us tremendously.”
Millsap is expected to be a mentor to the Nuggets’ younger players. Nuggets guard Malik Beasley is already close to Millsap, having met his family and interacted with the star forward while he was growing up in Atlanta.
“Way back when I was in high school, which was about two years ago… I used to go to Hawks games with him (playing),” Beasley said. “And after the games he would teach me how to recover your body. He’s a great guy, humble. I’m ready to work with him and talk to his family again.
“I looked up to him. I still look up to him. I can’t wait for him to teach me the ropes. He’s been in the game a long time. I ready to learn from him and work with him.”
Malone is ready, too.
“That veteran experience, making big plays, making big shots,” Malone said. “That’s something that we have sorely missed the last couple of years. So, having a guy like Millsap is going to help out in so many areas. I can’t wait to coach him.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.
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