Going under the radar is nothing new to Paul Millsap. The 29-year-old Louisiana native played his collegiate years under the radar at Louisiana Tech. Not really known as a basketball power, Millsap built himself into a dominant player in the WAC conference and eventually became a second-round draft pick.
Drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2006, Millsap quickly blossomed into one of the best kept secrets in the game. Along with Deron Williams, Millsap turned the Utah Jazz back into a contender in the West.
Despite his stellar play on every level, he’s been one of the least talked about players in the game.
His free-agent signing with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013 brought Millsap something that he’s never had before, a buzz.
Since touching down in Atlanta, Millsap has continued to raise his game to another level. Expected to pair with Al Horford in the post, he had to take on the brunt of the work after Horford went down for the 2013-14 season with a leg injury.
Millsap took advantage of the time and turned himself into an All-Star level player. He would help lead the Hawks to a second-round playoff series.
As he was beginning to become the topic of conversation, something bigger took precedent: news that one of the Hawks owners would be leaving due to racist remarks made about free agents on a recorded phone call. Shortly after, Hawks GM Danny Ferry would take an indefinite suspension for his role in the incident.
It was time for the Hawks star to step from the shadows and become the vocal leader the team would need.
During Hawks media day, I got the chance to speak to Paul about the controversy surrounding the team, his relationship with Danny Ferry, and his expectations for himself and the team.
Baller Mind Frame: How did you feel after you heard the tape of Danny Ferry? Did hearing him describe a player like that affect you and your feelings about staying on with the team any and do you think it will stop players from wanting to come here to play?
Paul Millsap: It didn’t effect my decision because I’m on the inside. I know the guys who are here. People on the outside looking in, they may base their decision off that. I hope not, because it’s a great group of guys here. Anyone should love playing here. For myself, I love these guys and I love being here.
BMF: The season is going to start with the Hawks missing general manager Danny Ferry. Has your opinion changed any of Ferry since hearing news of the tape?
PM: This is the guy who brought me in. He took a chance on me. Danny has treated me with nothing but respect. We all know, he knows that he made a mistake. Whether he said it or not, I’m sure he regrets it. It’s not up to me to dictate another guys’ punishment. We all make mistakes. We all say some things that we’re not supposed to say.
BMF: Last season was a breakout season for you. How does it feel to finally get recognition for your great play over the years?
PM: It feels good to finally get a little recognition. I don’t really want to care. I’m always going to get out there and get better for my teammates. The job is not done. There is still a lot of room for improvement. I’m going to continue to improve.
BMF: Many players are actively recruiting other players to come join them and form “superteams.” Have you thought about any players that you would want to reach out and bring into the Hawks fold?
PM: I think that’s a lot of guys in the league who fit into what we do as a team. You have to be a basketball player to really be on this team. You have to know how to pass, shoot, the basic fundamentals. You have to be a fundamental guy to play in our kind of system.
BMF: What do you expect for yourself this season?
PM: I foresee us going a lot further. I think we see ourselves going a lot further than we did last season. Under different circumstances it didn’t happen. It’s a new year and we’re going to continue to do better and get better