Nuggets ex­cited about Mill­sap ac­qui­si­tion

Power for­ward from At­lanta is “per­fect fit” for Den­ver

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider

When Malik Beasley was in high school out­side At­lanta, he and his fam­ily would reg­u­larly at­tend Hawks games. His ex­pe­ri­ence as an NBA fan of­ten went well be­yond the fi­nal buzzer.

Beasley, now a Nuggets guard pre­par­ing to en­ter his sec­ond pro­fes­sional sea­son, had a con­nec­tion to Paul Mill­sap. Their fam­i­lies have been long­time friends and would watch Hawks games to­gether at Philips Arena. Beasley, dream­ing of his own NBA ca­reer on the near horizon, found him­self at Mill­sap’s house af­ter At­lanta’s games, soak­ing in all he could from the team’s al­ls­tar power for­ward.

“I re­mem­ber chilling with him and work­ing out with him,” Beasley said. “Now he’s play­ing with me. It’s just re­ally cool.”

Beasley texted Mill­sap on Sun­day night soon af­ter he heard that Mill­sap and the Nuggets had agreed to a three-year, $90 mil­lion con­tract. The third year of

that deal is a team op­tion.

“Paul Mill­sap is real quiet, but he’s a su­per­star who gets the job done and works hard,” Beasley said af­ter prac­tice Mon­day for Den­ver’s sum­mer league team. “He’s work­ing hard when you guys don’t see it. At his home, he has an ex­er­cise room that he’s al­ways work­ing out in. He’s hum­ble and, other than that, just a great guy, a per­fect fit for this team.”

Mill­sap won’t of­fi­cially be­come a mem­ber of the Nuggets un­til the NBA’s mora­to­rium for sign­ing new con­tracts is lifted Fri­day. As is stan­dard dur­ing the mora­to­rium, there was no com­ment from Nuggets ex­ec­u­tives or coaches, only know­ing grins that seemed to stretch a lit­tle wider than usual. But for­ward Juan­cho Her­nan­gomez fol­lowed an emoji-chocked tweet wel­com­ing Mill­sap on Sun­day night with more thoughts about his new team­mate.

“He’s an all-star and we need a player like him,” Her­nan­gomez said Mon­day. “He’s go­ing to step up for the Den­ver Nuggets.”

The arms race in the Western Con­fer­ence has moved fast and fu­ri­ous since the Golden State War­riors lifted the cham­pi­onship tro­phy three weeks ago. The Tim­ber­wolves, Rock­ets and Thun­der all added a star to their ros­ters through trades. The Kings made a splash with three firstround draft picks who could make quick im­pacts. The Trail Blaz­ers moved into the lottery to draft rim pro­tec­tor Zach Collins. Oh, and Golden State kept the core of its dy­nas­tic team to­gether.

To keep pace, and main­tain some of the mo­men­tum built by their first 40-win sea­son since 2013, the Nuggets had to do some­thing they hadn’t done in nearly two decades: land a mar­quee free agent. Their own at­tempts at trades had been foiled in the days be­fore and af­ter the draft. Pulling a player off the open mar­ket be­came im­per­a­tive. The Nuggets didn’t take any chances, even en­list­ing the help of Bron­cos line­backer Bran­don Mar­shall to make a pitch to Mill­sap.

But in the end, the Nuggets made things easy for Mill­sap, who lived in Den­ver dur­ing the first 11 years of his life be­fore mov- ing to Louisiana.

“It was pretty sim­ple,” Mill­sap told The At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion. “Den­ver, they came and they’ve been want­ing me for years. They made that known.

“The pre­sen­ta­tion that they gave me, it felt com­fort­able, it felt real. At the end of the day it was go­ing to be the team that I felt most com­fort­able with and At­lanta. At­lanta de­cided to go an­other di­rec­tion. They didn’t want to make an of­fer. So it was pretty sim­ple. Den­ver was the team.”

Mill­sap, who av­er­aged a ca­reer-high 18.1 points per game last sea­son and has made four con­sec­u­tive Eastern Con­fer­ence al­ls­tar teams, rep­re­sents the high-pro­file player the Nuggets have been seek­ing to pair with their young core of cen­ter Nikola Jo­kic, guards Gary Har­ris and Ja­mal Mur­ray and Her­nan­gomez, a for­ward. But it’s un­likely that pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball oper­a­tions Tim Con­nelly and gen­eral man­ager Ar­turas Kar­niso­vas are done mak­ing moves.

Den­ver is in­ter­ested in — among oth­ers — point guard Ge­orge Hill, who av­er­aged a ca­reer-high 16.9 points per game dur­ing his lone sea­son with the Utah Jazz. The Nuggets will pur­sue a deal if they are able to move some salary, The Ringer re­ported Sun­day. How­ever, there is com­pe­ti­tion for the ser­vices of the top re­main­ing point guard on the mar­ket. Hill met Mon­day with the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers and dis­cussed a pos­si­ble one-year con­tract, ESPN re­ported.

The Nuggets’ pur­suit of their own un­re­stricted free agent, for­ward Danilo Gal­li­nari, is less clear. Gal­li­nari met Satur­day with the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers and has drawn in­ter­est from other teams. His mar­ket could be de­ter­mined by all-star for­ward Gor­don Hay­ward, who is ex­pected to choose an of­fer from Bos­ton, Miami and Utah this week.

Even if the Nuggets aren’t able to re­tain Gal­li­nari or sign Hill, move­ment is likely at the power for­ward po­si­tion. Mill­sap will be join­ing Ken­neth Faried, Dar­rell Arthur, Trey Lyles, Her­nan­gomez and draft pick Tyler Ly­don as play­ers who have had sig­nif­i­cant play­ing time at the po­si­tion. Faried, who is due $12.9 mil­lion next sea­son, and Arthur ($7.4 mil­lion) could be fits for teams try­ing to ab­sorb vet­eran con­tracts.

John Leyba, Den­ver Post file

Paul Mill­sap, a for­mer At­lanta Hawks star, has ac­cepted the Nuggets’ of­fer of a three-year con­tract worth $90 mil­lion. He will sign the con­tract Fri­day.

John Bazemore, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Vet­eran for­ward Paul Mill­sap, from Louisiana Tech, av­er­aged 18.1 points and 7.7 re­bounds last sea­son with the At­lanta Hawks.

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