The Return was fit for a king.
A drumline. Dozens of kids forming a welcome line. A packed press conference full of media. Rocky. Nuggets dancers. And all of this in a recreation center in the neighborhood where Paul Millsap spent a few important years of his childhood.
“Wow, this is amazing,” Millsap said. “I’m so excited to be here.”
Millsap’s formal introduction to Nuggets fans and media was a celebration, which took place on Thursday at the Montbello Recreation Center. And it was as festive as press conferences come; excited energy radiating through the building. Millsap signed a multi-year deal with the Nuggets on Thursday, becoming the first major free agent to ink a contract with the team in many years.
Yet, as much as the Nuggets are looking forward to his on-court impact – and they are very, very eager – he felt the love just as much.
“I want to thank this organization for showing interest in me,” Millsap said. “To be back after so many years, it’s an amazing feeling. Words cannot explain what the city of Denver meant to me when me and my family were here.”
It was just a short period of time that Millsap’s family lived in Montbello, during his middle school years, but it made an impression. He was a young football player when his family left back in 1999, but he returned as a 6-foot-8, 246-pound basketball star. He is a four-time All-Star, who the Nuggets will count on for production and leadership.
“In terms of fit,” Nuggets president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly said, “he was the most seamless guy.”
And he was right at the top of the Nuggets’ list going into free agency, Connelly added. In an interview with Altitude Sports, Millsap called his meeting with the Nuggets the best free agent meeting he’s ever had.
“We’re excited, obviously,” Connelly said. “This is a guy we’ve chased aggressively for years. It’s not just that we got a yes, we got the right yes.”
Asked in the press conference why he chose Denver, Millsap was succinct in his response.
“Why not Denver?” he said.
Why not, indeed. The Nuggets worked hard over the last few years to put themselves, as a team and organization, in position to net the big prize. Player agents and their athlete clients know what the front office is about, the team is on an upwardly mobile path, and it has players like Nikola Jokić who are appealing to play alongside.
“I’m looking forward to just getting out there playing with him,” Millsap said. “He’s an amazing talent. I’m looking for him to make my job a little easier.”
Millsap chuckled after uttering the last part. But his presence in Denver, and with the Nuggets is no laughing matter. It is appreciated. And, yes, celebrated. The Nuggets have coveted Millsap for many years. This wasn’t their first attempt at getting him. But this time, the right time, they finally did.
None of that was lost on Millsap.
“The organization showed a lot of interest in me,” Millsap said. “And as a basketball player that’s what you look for.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.