Todd Kirkland, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — He wasn’t a media magnet like LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Chris Paul, but Paul Millsap had the privilege of enduring almost as many questions as there are beads on Bourbon Street.
Nobody was happier than Millsap to be in the position to endure the media madness — 1,800-plus credentials were given — that accompanies an All-Star weekend invitation.
The 29-year-old has, after all, waited seven years to be in the position.
For Millsap, the questions were about his time with the Utah Jazz from 2006-13. They were about the power forward’s revamped stretch-four role and increased 3-point shooting with the Atlanta Hawks.
There were questions about his favorite basketball movie (“'Love & Basketball' — everybody loves a love story"), and questions about what ingredients he’d put in a Paul Millsap Smoothie (chocolate and peanut butter, of course). Questions were posed about what mascot needs a makeover a la Pierre the Pelican, about video games, about fellow former Louisiana Tech and Utah Jazz star Karl Malone, about the biggest snub ("One of my good friends: Al Jefferson"), even about what former player he’d most like to dunk on.
“Maybe Dikembe Mutombo,” he said.
Millsap didn’t reveal if he’d do a finger wag at the retired NBA center after swatting his shot.
For a change, Millsap is just thrilled that he was given a thumbs-up at All-Star time instead of having fingers wagged at him.
“I feel like I’ve been competing at a high level for years now,” Millsap said. “I finally have the opportunity for it to pay off.”
All the better that the Grambling, La., native’s All-Star debut is in his home state.
“I think it’s equally special to have the opportunity to play in front of my family (in Louisiana) with it being my first one. It’s an amazing feeling,” Millsap said. “Hopefully, I’ll get some minutes.”
Millsap laughed about what might happen when his name is called.
“I’m going to be the one guy diving on the ground for loose balls,” he said, laughing. “No, man, I’m going to get out there and have fun.”
That’s precisely what Millsap has done in becoming the oldest first-time All-Star (of six newcomers).
Not only has the 6-foot-8 player been able to outwork taller opponents inside, as usual, but he’s also become a serious, consistent threat from outside with the Hawks. This year, Millsap is averaging 17.6 points with a career-high 50 3-pointers, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks.
Hawks big man Pero Antic, selected to the Rising Stars Challenge, scoffed at the notion that Millsap has a size disadvantage.
“Undersized. Everybody think that it’s easy, but it’s not easy to play against Paul even defense or offense,” the 6-foot-11 Macedonian said. “He’s very smart, experienced and he can attack you inside and outside.”
The (Mail)man who paved the way for Millsap at Louisiana Tech and in Utah couldn’t be prouder, even if Malone admits it’s different to see him succeed in a non-Jazz uniform.
“We had it on track for a minute. He went to Louisiana Tech. He was in Utah. He’s a power forward,” Malone said, chuckling. “(Then) he went to Atlanta. I still like the South. I live here. It’s hard (to see him in a different uniform), but it’s just part of it.”
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