Utah Jazz: Friday could be Paul Millsap's last home hurrah in a Jazz uniform
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Depending on how things play out — in both the impending postseason and the upcoming offseason — tonight could be the last time Paul Millsap ever wears a Utah Jazz uniform at EnergySolutions Arena.
Utah finishes its regular season in Minnesota and Memphis, so Friday's game against the Timberwolves could possibly be the free-agent-to-be's home finale after a seven-year stint in Salt Lake City.
The longest-tenured Jazz player clearly didn't want to think about that fact, somewhat brushing off a question about whether he'd have extra emotions going into what could be his last home hurrah in a No. 24 Jazz jersey.
"I don't approach it differently than any other game, especially in these past few weeks," Millsap said. "The main focus, the main goal, is to win."
Millsap smiled when asked to talk about the growth he's experienced since coming to Utah out of Louisiana Tech in 2006.
It's obvious, though, that Utah has become a second home to him since he followed Karl Malone's path from Ruston, La., to the Beehive State.
"I don't have enough time to really talk about it. It's been a long road — a long, long, long time being here. Seen a lot. Done a lot," Millsap said. "(I've) met some great people and everybody that I've met (here) has been a part of my growth, has been part of me getting better as a person, as a basketball player.
"I owe a lot to this community," Millsap added. "I owe a lot to this organization."
And vice versa.
Millsap carved out quite the nice niche for himself as being a Jerry Sloan-approved lunch-pail worker who made the most of being an undersized, 6-foot-8 power forward. Drafted No. 47 overall by the Jazz seven years ago, Millsap proved to be a valuable backup behind All-Star Carlos Boozer and then showed that he's capable of carrying the starting load.
Millsap came into the NBA as a three-time NCAA rebounding champion, but he improved his outside shot and hit the weight room hard to become a versatile player with the ability to play away from the basket and to bang inside the paint.
"He's been a true pro. He's a guy that's grown a lot since we first brought him here," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He's worked a lot on his body to grow, to be the player that he is now from the time that he came in the league."
Corbin also lauded Millsap for learning how to "play with his size in this league" and for his off-the-court contributions.
"He's been a great teammate," Corbin said, "and a great guy for this community."
Millsap's future with the Jazz, however, is unclear.
Utah has two blossoming young big men in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, and it's unlikely the Jazz will bring back both Millsap and starting center Al Jefferson, who'll also become a free agent this summer.
HEALTH IN A HANDBASKET: It looks like the Jazz will have more bodies available for tonight's game than they did while playing the Thunder as a shorthanded squad Tuesday.
Marvin Williams (stomach flu) and Alec Burks (sprained ankle) both practiced Thursday after missing the loss to OKC with their ailments. Jamaal Tinsley injured his wrist, but he's expected to be good to go.
Burks is looking forward to playing again. He sat out the past two games after twisting his ankle while stepping onto New Orleans guard Xavier Henry's foot a week ago.
"It's tough because I've never hurt my ankle before," Burks said. " But I got through it."
The Jazz will be without Enes Kanter for the rest of the season. The second-year center underwent ligament reattachment surgery on his dislocated left shoulder Wednesday in Chicago.
Kanter will begin his rehabilitation process in the Windy City, his offseason home, before returning to Utah to work with the Jazz's medical staff.
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