Utah Jazz: Hard-working Paul Millsap willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win

Published: Tuesday, May 1 2012 10:37 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap (24) gets a hand slap from Jazz General Manager kevin O'Connor after the jazz win over the Phoenix Suns play Tuesday, April 24, 2012 in Energy Solutions arena 100-88.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — He's that guy who's been the subject of trade rumors for the past couple of years, although they've always been started by people outside — not inside — the Utah Jazz organization.

He's that guy who, although he stands 6-foot-8 and a muscular 253 pounds, is supposedly too small to play power forward in this league.

And he's that guy who just keeps his head down and goes about his business, doing his job every day in an efficient, workmanlike manner. That guy who's incredibly steady and consistent, who always plays through pain, who often earns the spotlight but does his best to shy away from it as best he can.

He's the under-appreciated, over-achieving Paul Millsap, that soft-spoken "little big man" who likes to let his performance do his talking for him. And that performance continues to speak volumes about his desire, determination and work ethic — qualities he possesses in great abundance.

Millsap has been with the Jazz for six seasons since being selected with the 47th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft out of Louisiana Tech, where he swept three straight NCAA rebounding titles at the school that produced another pretty good Jazz power forward — maybe you've heard of him — named Karl Malone.

Well, you might call Millsap "Mailman Light," because not-so-tall Paul has many of the same, admirable characteristics that made "Mailman" Malone such a hugely successful star during his Hall of Fame career.

Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin could certainly make the comparison.

"Their toughness, their determination to get better every year, the way he wants to come in and give you an honest day's work every day," Corbin said of the similarities between Millsap and Malone. "Karl never liked missing a game, and I think (Paul) has some of that in him, too. When he's supposed to be at work, he's at work."

This season, Millsap was Utah's second-leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. He also averaged 2.3 assists per game, had his best-ever season at the foul line by shooting a career-best 79.2 percent, and ranked fourth in the league in steals per game at 1.84 while cutting back considerably on his turnovers.

Millsap had a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds in Game 1 of Utah's playoff series Sunday at San Antonio, and he'll be counted on to help lead the way again tonight when the underdog Jazz face the top-seeded Spurs in Game 2 of their first-round matchup at 5 p.m. at the AT&T Center.

Some folks might not appreciate everything that Millsap does to help the Jazz win, but Coach Corbin is definitely not one of them.

"Absolutely, on both ends of the floor," the Jazz coach said of Millsap's tireless contributions. "He makes big plays for us on the offensive end of the floor, but he also makes huge plays for us on the defensive end of the floor with his rebounding, getting a big rebound or getting a big stop or getting his hands on the ball, running the floor.

"He and Al (Jefferson) and a couple of other guys have been probably the most steady guys we've had all year, and Paul's been great about just fighting through everything. Whatever the (trade) talk has been from outside entities, as far as I know they've never talked to him about any trade stuff. He's just continued to play hard and try and get better himself and make us better as a team.

"The being-too-small stuff, I think, he takes that personally, so he'll go out and show you and that's why he'll play with such enthusiasm and energy like he does," Corbin said. "Small doesn't matter because he's big in what he does."

Millsap admitted that having people constantly yacking about him being traded or being undersized gives him the impetus to work that much harder.

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