Michael Brandy, Deseret News
During what might have been the longest six days of his life — a span that started with him winning the lottery, and ended with him happy nothing's really changed — Paul Millsap just wanted to be away.
He tried not to ponder the possibilities, didn't want to predict the outcome: Would the Jazz match Portland's four-year, front-loaded $32 million offer sheet in the time frame for doing so, or would Millsap need to collect his bags, relocate the clan and shop for the sturdiest umbrella money can buy?
"It was a tough week," said Millsap, who tonight will face the team that helped make him a very rich man when the Trail Blazers visit Utah for a preseason game at EnergySolutions Arena.
"I mean, the Jazz waited until the last day — that made it more frustrating on my part. (But) in the back of my head, I realized and knew that they was gonna match, and I just had to be patient about it."
To distance himself while the Jazz made many sweat and figured out how they would come up with $10.3 million that was due almost immediately, Millsap sought refuge in his native Louisiana.
"I went back home, spent time with my family," he said. "Just took time to myself and my family … and just didn't worry about that."
There wasn't anyone in particular Millsap leaned on, anyone who made the wait to learn where he'd play this season and beyond — Utah, where deep down he really wanted to be; or Portland, which stepped up with the money, even if as some suspect it was only to fluster the Jazz — more bearable.
Instead — no great shock to those who know him best — was the rock.
"Pretty much Paul," said teammate Deron Williams, who maintained contact with his good friend throughout the offseason. "Even if he is freaking out, you're not gonna know."
It was that way even throughout early July, when everyone in the close-knit Millsap family waited and wondered what his — and, really, their — restricted free-agent fate would be.
"Everybody around me, I had to keep them level," Millsap said. "They was a little frustrated, a little nervous. I tried to keep them calm.
"My personality, you know — I just helped myself, and just kept myself occupied, kept myself away from anything that would bring that up."
Yet from the day the NBA's summer free-agency shopping market opened late on June 30 to the time he signed on Portland's dotted line late on July 10, the 2006 second-round draft choice was consumed by uncertainty and even a pinch of worry.
"Where could I be? Who really wants me? You'd think whoever really wants me is gonna come get me," he said. "Just a lot of things were going through my mind. But primarily I just wanted to stay here, just wanted the Jazz to do something so I could be here."
Instead, they sat back and — perhaps pinching pennies, or maybe in hopes of saving a million or two or three or more — let the market set his value.
Williams, for one, lobbied on his behalf throughout.
"He's a big part of plans for the future," the Jazz point guard said. "A lot of people look at him as a backup, as a role player. I don't. I think he can be more than that. I see more than that in him."
— — —
During the week of decision for the franchise that drafted him, Millsap didn't even touch a basketball — reflective of just how stressful the week was.
"That's odd for me," the Monroe, La., native and Louisiana Tech product said. "Normally I'm in the gym. … But I took that week off for myself."
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