Millsap, Nuggets need each other
Paul Millsap needs a basketball team. The Nuggets need to save face. This is an NBA marriage of convenience. Nobody said free agency was going to be pretty.
After driving the Nuggets’ clown car in circles for weeks, Josh Kroenke hopped on an airplane Saturday to Atlanta with his top lieutenants and a big bag of money, hoping to cut a deal with Millsap, a 32-yearold veteran quickly running out of time and options to strike it rich.
Desperate to be relevant in a league where super teams rule, Denver missed out in recent months on Paul George, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler and Blake Griffin, to name just four NBA all-stars.
The Nuggets got rejected more than I did as a teenager, when looking for a date to the prom. Of course, I have never been accused of being particularly handsome or an heir to billions of dollars. So what’s young Mr. Kroenke’s excuse?
Millsap provides the last best chance for somebody to make Denver feel loved. And maybe an undersized power forward who had to work hard on both ends of the floor for Atlanta to earn four trips to the All-Star Game is somebody who can relate to the Nuggets’ insecurity complex. It helped that he was undoubtedly feeling a little disrespected, with the Hawks preferring to tear down their team rather than give him a max deal, and free-agent suitors such as Phoenix and Minnesota balking at the price to acquire Millsap.
Oh, Millsap can make the Nuggets better. He should get Denver to the playoffs, although it’s probably folly to think Millsap can prevent a first-round blowout against Golden State, Houston or San Antonio.
So why are the Nuggets so interested? Well, they had to do something other than be the butt of jokes. During the last 48 hours alone, our local NBA franchise has been clowned in so many ways it hurts to laugh.
George, the 27-year-old forward itching to move to the beach in sunny Southern California, decided to rent for a year in Oklahoma City of all places, after reportedly telling the Nuggets months ago that Denver held no appeal. Desperate for Love, Denver tried acquiring the reliable scorer from Cleveland in a three-team trade at least twice during June, only to see its best efforts flushed down the drain by the lowly Indiana Pacers. And ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt mocked Denver management on live television at the outset of free agency, by telling the Nuggets to quit bugging NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on his cellphone.
Here’s the problem. Try as the Nuggets might — team executives Tim Connelly and Arturas Karnisovas do try really, really hard — Denver is a nowhere town on the NBA map, stuck somewhere along that lonely road between Sacramento and Charlotte.
The Nuggets have been saving all their nickels for this year’s period of free-agent shopping madness, and they are having trouble even getting their foot in the door to throw a chunk of the Kroenke family fortune on the counter.
Rivals ahead (Oklahoma City, Houston) and behind (Minnesota) the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings have made significant roster upgrades. Through its recent actions, Denver management has let it be known Kenneth Faried isn’t the answer at power forward, Gary Harris is expendable in trade, Emmanuel Mudiay isn’t all that and re-signing free agent Danilo Gallinari is a back-burner priority. I tend to agree with all those talent evaluations, but I also certainly hope most of those guys are moving on down the road, or else coach Michael Malone might have more than a few unhappy campers in the Nuggets locker room.
It seems to me something Yoda once said applies to NBA free agency: “Do … or do not. There is no try.”
Millsap is the best Denver can do. KISZLA «FROM 1C Mark Kiszla: email@example.com or @markkiszla