Paul Millsap nearly added the perfect ending to a great night. Having already scored 28 points and needing two more to eke out a win on the game’s final play, Millsap darted along the baseline around an Al Horford screen, caught the entry pass, and took one sharp step to his right – a crossover dribble that sent the help defender tumbling harmlessly aside.
Millsap rose and fired, but the shot rimmed out. Seconds later, Elijah Millsap, his younger brother by two years and a swingman on the Utah Jazz, hugged him on the court. It was their first NBA game against each other.
“He told me I tricked the shot.” Paul said of the embrace before uncorking his husky contrabass laugh. “We’re hard on each other. That’s my brother, I love him. I just gave him some encouragement. You know he didn’t play tonight, so I told him to keep his head up.”
Then Paul joked, “He’ll call me tonight talking crazy again.”
The two are close; Elijah lives in Atlanta in the offseason to be closer to Paul and their two other brothers, John and Abraham.
“I just wanted to be close to family,” Elijah said. ”My brothers usually do a lot of working out in the summer. And they’re great competition, so I decided to move there for the summertime so I could be closer to them.”
Elijah said that he himself worked on spot-up shots, but when asked about Paul, he couldn’t narrow it down.
“He works on everything,” Elijah said. “He’s a jack of all trades. He works on his ball-handling a lot and does a lot of shooting in the offseason, but mostly he just mixes it up.”
The results show up in the box score, as Paul regularly stuffs every column with stats that other players can’t touch. For the season, Millsap is averaging 17.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals.
According to Basketball Reference, only one other player has put up comparable numbers over a full season. Charles Barkley did it with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1985-86.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer summed up the overall sentiment about Paul’s multifaceted skill set.
“He just gets better every year, and he was pretty darn good when he arrived,” Budenholzer said. “Everybody talks about how he’s expanded his range, and that’s great, but the way he has been attacking from the three-point line and attacking off the dribble and making his teammates better – he’s critical to everything that we do.”
To see why Budenholzer appreciates Millsap’s do-everything skill, take a quick look at the NBA’s most potent offenses. The league’s five most potent attacks (through Sunday’s games) all feature power forwards who can shoot and make plays off the dribble.
In Golden State, Draymond Green is setting up his teammates even better than he did in their championship season. The Thunder and Clippers have Serge Ibaka and Blake Griffin, two outstanding midrange shooters who can penalize defenders who choose to overplay their jump shots. Cleveland has Kevin Love at power forward, and they can also put LeBron James there when needed.
Another thing those players have in common is a dash of ‘rumble’. For Millsap, that style of play may possibly trace back to his football days. Paul and Elijah, who were born in Louisiana, played football as grade schoolers in Denver before the family moved back to their original home state. Paul, always the passer, took naturally to the quarterback position.
But when they got to Louisiana, the Millsaps ended up at a small school that didn’t have football. Thankfully for our fans, the absence of football fueled a passion in hoops.
“My family has really deep ties to basketball,” Elijah said, “and our uncle starting taking us out and teaching us the fundamentals. We had nothing else to do in the country, so that’s what we migrated to.”
Story by KL Chouinard
Courtesy Atlanta Hawks: http://www.nba.com/hawks/features/millsap-brothers-embrace-each-other-court