The Nets are one of the few teams in the NBA that fulfilled that old adage, the rich get richer.
Due to their high championship aspirations and favorable odd, players are interested. Call them “ring-chasers,” but that’s pejorative. They’re more like investors. To Paul Millsap, — who is entering his 16th season in the league — that’s a big reason why he chose Brooklyn as his next destination.
“It was a tough and long process for me. A lot of factors weighed into my decision. It was a decision that was made based off winning now and trying to win a championship this year,” Millsap said at Nets Media Day Monday. “I feel like the pieces that we have now, it was definitely possible.”
The four-time All-Star has come close to winning a championship in the NBA — getting the Western Conference Finals twice and the Eastern Conference Finals once — but has never accomplished the elusive feat all players have on their bucket list. During free agency, the 36-year-old veteran had his options to pick from but no team better exemplified his wants and needs more than Brooklyn. The other teams that were reportedly interested in him were the Bulls, Warriors and Clippers.
“There were options out there but none I felt fitted what I wanted to do, wanted to accomplish and the big picture of things. Just having a coach like Steve Nash and having players like we have in the locker room, I felt like it met every criteria I was looking for,” Millsap said.
Millsap, who arrived in Brooklyn a few days ago, said he spoke with Kevin Durant following his decision to sign with the Nets. Before that, as he was weighing his options, the veteran said Sean Marks and Steve Nash were huge in luring him into the black-and-white threads but the players in the locker room helped make the decision easier.
“Sean Marks was big. Steve Nash and those guys were huge. They made me feel comfortable and they had a big impact on that. Knowing some of the other guys that are in the locker room, their talent and their attitudes definitely made the decision a little more easier,” Millsap said.
Millsap is no stranger to his new head coach. The two players dueled for years when Millsap was on the Jazz and Nash — along with Marks — was on the Suns. The forward is happy to be playing under Nash in Brooklyn and is excited to see how he fits.
“It’s a great opportunity. I’m fortunate and grateful for the opportunity. I’m still trying to figure out if I should call him Steve, Coach Steve, Coach Nash or whatever it is, but through time we’ll continue to work on our relationship,” said Millsap on Nash. “I’ll see what he wants from me, how I can be effective and fit into his plays.”
While most see Millsap as a strong contributor off the bench this upcoming season for Brooklyn, it’s been reported that he’s gunning for a starting spot in that crowded frontcourt rotation which features the likes of Blake Griffin, Nic Claxton, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson and rookie Day’Ron Sharpe. Not to mention rover Bruce Brown and of course, Kevin Durant.
Millsap says he still sees himself as a “really good player” at age 36 but knows the Nets won’t need to demand high-scoring from him. He is coming off playing 56 games for the No. 3 seed Nuggets and in a reduced role, averaged 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while playing 20.8 minutes — the lowest averages since his second year in the league (2007-08).
“As a player, I still see myself as a really good player. I’m not going to take any of that away from myself, but I think when you get older, you learn what a real team is about and what your role is on that team,” said Millsap on his role.
“This team is not going to need me to go out there, go to work on the block and score 15-20 points. I understand that and knowing my role on this team is going to be big and crucial. Everybody knowing their role on the team is going to be crucial.”
Another underlying factor, yet a very important one, in Millsap’s decision to come to Brooklyn was the performance staff and facilities the Nets organization can offer. Millsap explained how he understands the value of those amenities now that he’s older.
“It was very important. I didn’t mention that but it was really important to have a world-class organization at the top and world-class performance team, world-catering, world-class chefs. All of that type of stuff matters,” Millsap said. “When you get older, you understand that a little bit more and it plays a big part in the decision-making. All of that combined was part of the big decision.”
How soon before the next big decision — Who’s starting? Don’t expect till at least Sunday when the Nets conclude their training camp in Southern California with a preseason game vs. the Lakers at Staples Center.