NBA AM: Millsap Gets Fresh Start in Atlanta
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Millsap Gets Fresh Start in Atlanta
Paul Millsap isn’t one to spend his summer relaxing. The 28-year-old, who is known for having a strong work ethic, has been in Atlanta training with his new Hawks teammates this offseason. Putting in long hours at the gym is how Millsap has been able to exceed all expectations since entering the league as the 47th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. After spending seven seasons with the Utah Jazz, the veteran power forward inked a two-year, $19 million deal with the Hawks in July and then got to work.
“It’s been fun,” Millsap said. “With all of the new things, it’s a process and a crazy period, but we’re learning each other and figuring things out. Hopefully this week we’ll move even further along.”
“He’s a really hard worker, that’s one thing that I’ve learned so far,” Jeff Teague said of Millsap. “He comes to work every day and gives 100 percent. He’s very talented and he can really finish around the rim. He plays his butt off. Him bringing that energy to our squad, it’s just trickling through to everyone else.”
That’s exactly what Danny Ferry, the Hawks’ general manager, hoped would happen when he signed the big man.
“[We love] Paul’s values and how he plays,” Ferry said. “For one, he really knows how to play. He’s a smart player, he’s a good passer, he’s unselfish. He plays hard every play and every game. That’s an identity that we obviously want to have with our team, in practice and in games. Having him do that every day, and having our young guys see that as an example every day, it’s a great thing.”
Millsap is still trying to get on the same page as his new teammates, but he’s confident that the Hawks have an intelligent team that should be able to come together quickly.
“We’re a smart team,” Millsap said. “We’re going to know what to do. Our brains are our best asset right now. During the course of the season, we’ll figure everything out. With smart guys around, I’m sure [the rookies] will catch on pretty fast. Also, we have a coach who is going to teach and break things down for everyone. Because we have smart and intelligent guys, hopefully it won’t take that long [for the group to jell]. We’ve already been going through some things and we’re getting a feel for what we’re going to do. It’s been working out.”
Al Horford will continue to play center alongside Millsap, which gives Atlanta a very promising frontcourt. Millsap believes the two big men complement each other well.
“We’re just going to do what we do,” Millsap said of playing alongside Horford. “We both think alike, especially on the basketball court; we’re both unselfish. I think that will all come into play. I think we’ll mix well and easily, hopefully.”
New head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs for the last 16 seasons, has told his team that they’ll be running a lot of pick-and-roll. While Millsap may be a little bit rusty, he should be able to do well in the offense.
“I haven’t played pick-and-pop for awhile,” Millsap said with a laugh. “It’s been awhile, but I feel like I’m pretty strong in that area. I know Al is really strong in that area and we’ve got the point guards and guards to do it. We’ll make it happen.”
Budenholzer loved the Millsap signing and he’s excited to have the power forward on his team. The two have been in communication over the offseason and have already built a solid relationship.
“Paul, he is just a great competitor,” Budenholzer said. “Most importantly, we feel like he’s a guy that is going to come out and play hard every night and bring it every night. And he has a very high basketball IQ. The way we play defensively, he’s going to be excellent here, and then offensively, we’ll be going through the elbows and using him as a passer and just taking advantage of his high basketball IQ.”
“He’s a great guy, a very open guy,” Millsap said of Budenholzer. “He’s going to tell you what he wants. You just have to go out there and do it.”
Millsap is already drawing comparisons to Josh Smith, since he’ll be replacing the 27-year-old at the power forward position. Smith spent the last nine seasons playing for the Hawks before signing with the Detroit Pistons this summer. When asked about taking over for Smith, Millsap shrugged off any comparisons.
“I don’t really try to compare myself to anybody else,” Millsap said of replacing Smith. “We’re two different players and two different people. I’ll be myself and I know the things I’m capable of doing. When we get out there, I can shoot the basketball, be very energetic and rebound. There are some of the same similarities, but [we’re] different.”
Last season, Atlanta won 44 games and finished as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. That’s probably the best-case scenario for the Hawks entering this season, since the top-five in the East seems to belong to the Miami HEAT, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. However, the Hawks will only be able to duplicate last season’s success if Millsap is able to get acclimated and thrive after the change of scenery.
Woodson Says Smith Must ‘Grow Up’
New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson discussed J.R. Smith’s five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program for the first time on Wednesday, and he was understandably “disappointed” in last season’s Sixth Man of the Year. Woodson told reporters that Smith “has got to grow up and do the right things.”
Last season, Smith said that he had cut back on his partying. However, he drew criticism when he was allegedly spotted clubbing on more than one occasion during the playoffs (during which he struggled).
Woodson was upset when he heard about the five-game suspension and offered some tough love to his shooting guard, who signed a four-year deal worth $24 million with the Knicks this offseason.
“You talk about missing the first five games, I’m not happy about it,” Woodson told ESPN New York’s Ian Begley. “But hey, we know what we’re facing and we’ve got to get through it and we’ve got to make sure that it’s something that he understands that’s something that can’t happen again.”
Smith had knee surgery over the summer and may not be ready for opening night. If he’s not available for the start of the season, he’ll have to serve his five-game suspension whenever he’s healthy enough to suit up. Smith must be cleared by team doctors and an independent doctor from the league before he can return to the floor, according to Begley.
“I’m not going to throw him out to pasture,” Woodson said. “My job is to coach him and make sure something like what happened doesn’t happen again. That’s what we do as coaches. I expect his teammates to show him some love.
“But at the end of the day, he’s got to do the right thing by J.R., and his teammates and me as a coach in this organization and the fans that support him. That’s what it’s all about.”
Smith was asked about the suspension at the Knicks’ media day and he seems to feel bad and regret his mistake.
“I’m more disappointed because I let my teammates and my coaches down more than anything,” Smith said. “I let [Knicks owner James] Dolan down.”
Last season, Smith averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 42.2 percent from the field.
Jordan Recalls Time He Dominated Mayo
Before O.J. Mayo was a shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, he was one of the top high school players in the country. There was a ton of hype surrounding Mayo when he was in high school, so it’s no surprise that his confidence was through the roof.
Jordan recalled the story in an interview to promote NBA 2K14, when asked if he ever talked trash as a player.
“My game always did my talking, I never said anything,” Jordan said. “I’m playing in my camp against OJ Mayo — he was a top high school kid coming out. I had never met him — first time. In front of my camp, he starts this thing about, ‘You can’t guard me, you can’t do this.’ I got my campers here, so I obviously can’t really go where I want to go because I own my camp.
“So I stop the camp, send the kids to bed. We go back to playing, and he starts his whole thing, ‘You can’t guard me.’ Finally I just said, ‘You may be the best high school player, but I’m the best player in the world.’ So from this point on, it’s a lesson. And from that point on, it was a lesson. He never won a game. I posted him up, I did everything. If I can ever show you that film, and if you can ever ask him, ask him about the things that happened at my camp. I don’t consider that trash, I consider that fact.”
Video of Jordan vs. Mayo surfaced, thanks to LarryBrownSports.com. Check it out: