One-on-One with Paul Millsap
In his first season as a Hawk, Paul Millsap earned his first All-Star selection of his career after seven seasons in Utah. The former Jazzman is averaging 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game — on pace for career-highs in all of those except rebounds.
Millsap quickly adapted to Coach Bud’s system that allows him to play in space, which fits Millsap’s athletic skill-set. This season, Millsap has taken advantage of that perimeter space by shooting 36.8% from three-point range, and his 49 made three-pointers this season is already 18 more than he had in his seven previous seasons combined.
On the defensive side of the ball, Millsap has been a pleasant surprise. Always known more as an offensive player, Millsap has come in and played very well on defense. With Horford out Millsap’s defensive impact has become even more noticeable, and he’s done very well at using his active hands to disrupt entry passes — helping lead to his near two steals per game — and as he’s gotten more comfortable in Bud’s scheme, he’s been crisper with his rotations and more decisive about when to help at the rim.
Millsap spoke with Hawks.com on Saturday about his All-Star selection, his play this season, influences on his career, in-game dunking, and more.
How did you find out you had made the All-Star team?
I was actually laying down in my hotel bed, you know, gazing off into the ceiling…no. *laughs* I was laying down watching TV and my phone rung, and it was Dominique Wilkins. Actually, the phone rung and I didn’t know who it was, so I didn’t answer it and then the security guy called me and I picked up and it was Dominique Wilkins saying congratulations. I was like, ‘What happened?’ and he said, ‘You made the All-Star team.’ So that was great. Then coach called me and everyone else started calling me, so it was a great time.
Were there any messages you got that were surprising or you appreciated a lot?
Yeah, I had ex-teammates, a lot of the Utah guys, Utah staff text me. Coach Ty [Corbin] text me, and I had a lot of texts and I tried to get back with them and tell everybody thank you back, so it was great.
Have you been to an All-Star Weekend before, as a spectator?
Not as a spectator. I went in my first two years for the Rising Stars Challenge. I played as both a rookie and sophomore in the game, so I’m a little familiar with it, but not at the magnitude of being an All-Star.
Is there one thing you’re looking for the most as a participant this time?
Just getting out there and being around all the festivities. I’m going to make all the appearances, all the games this year: Slam Dunk Contest, Rising Stars Challenge, and I’ll be in the All-Star game. So it’s going to be great to get out there and really experience the whole thing.
Is it special for you that it’s going to be in Louisiana? Is the whole family going to come down?
It is. It’s going to be great for myself and my family. It’s a chance of a lifetime to be in Louisiana for my first All-Star game, so I guess the whole family’s going to come out.
After playing this many years in the league, and having a reputation as a hard worker, do you feel like this is kind of validation of all that work you’ve put in?
I think it’s a stepping stone. I don’t want to say this is it though, like ‘Oh, I made the All-Star team this is it.’ I want to keep getting better. I want to continue to try to prove that I belong here, continue to try to win games for this team. It’s just a start for me, you know, everybody is saying, ‘Oh, you’re not that excited.’ I’m excited, but it’s just not the end of it all.
As a second round pick, do you still carry that around as a chip on your shoulder and motivation?
I don’t think I do it. I think people around, everybody else, sees it and says ‘Oh, he’s a second rounder,’ this and that. So I use what everybody else says to fuel the fire and continue to try to get better. That’s my main goal is to continue and try to get better.
When you look back, who have been the biggest influencers on your career from college to this point?
It’s been a lot. In college I had uncles, family members, really encourage me and help me with my game, and as I got to the NBA I was blessed to have a coach in Jerry Sloan that taught me the meaning of hard work and what you put in is what you get out. So I was blessed to have that and through the years just learning from everybody else and it’s been a great experience.
Has there been anything specifically that this coaching staff — Coach Bud, Darvin Ham, and everybody else — has taught you or done for you this year that maybe you haven’t gotten previously that’s helped you?
Oh yeah. For them, it’s breaking everything down to the tee, to the science. With Coach Bud, he don’t miss anything. Everything means something, everything has a purpose and just learning that and being around that has really helped me out a lot.
This year you come into a new situation, the only person you’d played with previously was DeMarre, how were you able to gel and be so successful from the start?
Some of it has been my personality. I’m the kind of guy that can probably fit into any situation. My teammates and the coaching staff have welcomed me, the city’s welcomed me and I’ve been able to just fuel off of that.
The system here is something you fit in with well. How much of your success this year can you put on playing in a system that fits your strengths so well?
Well yeah, the system helps a lot. It’s a wide open system; dribble-catch, shoot, pass, a lot of things that I’m good at. Able to get up and down the court. Able to take guys off the dribble, spaced out, so the system has helped out a lot. I felt coming here that the system would be great for me, and I think the coaches and Danny felt the same thing and that’s why we agreed on it.
You’ve shown this year that you can dunk on people and shoot the three. How excited are you to play in the wide open style of the All-Star Game?
I’m just excited to get out there and see what happens. I’m a game-time dunker. I don’t really even know what to expect from myself, you know. So, we’ll just have to see.
You’ve brought the hammer down on some people this year. Talking with Utah people they’re not used to seeing this. What brought it out of you this year?
I don’t know. I don’t know. Fresh legs? I’m not sure, but my body’s felt great this year — more than it has felt in prior years — so I had good training this summer and feel like I can get out there and show what I can really do.
What do you think of the “Trillsap” nickname?
It’s cool. I know that’s a down south thing, you know, “trill.” *laughs* I like it. I like it.
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