ANAHEIM, Calif. — While his teammates took on a pair of Western Conference powers, Paul Millsap took a rare weekend off from playing basketball.
Anybody who knows anything about the durable and dependable player is well aware of his disdain for missing time on the court. Injuries and illnesses have rarely kept him out of games his entire life — even in the preseason.
That just goes to show how much his paternal grandmother, Orleice Millsap, meant to the Jazz power forward.
Now reunited with his team after a three-day break — in time for tonight's preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Honda Center — Millsap said it was a "no-brainer" decision to take a temporary hoops hiatus to attend her funeral and be with family back in Louisiana.
"It was very important. Family comes first — above basketball," Millsap said Monday at practice in El Segundo, Calif. "… Any time something happens to a family member, family's always going to come first for me."
The Jazz organization insists on it being that way. That was previously made evident this month when the team allowed rookie Kevin Murphy to miss the beginning of camp so he could be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
"We're sorry to see him go through the thing with his family," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Millsap. "But it's great to get him back with his team."
Millsap focused on family time in Louisiana and took the three days off from playing basketball and working out.
"I had a good time with them. It was nice," Millsap said. "(Now) I'm back here and I'm ready for basketball."
Corbin has made a point of not giving starting lineup hints before game nights, but it's likely Millsap will return to his spot in the first five when the Jazz try to beat the Lakers for the second time in four days.
In Millsap's absence, the Jazz beat both the Thunder (97-81 at home) and the Lakers (99-86 at Staples Center) with third-year pro Derrick Favors in the starting power forward role.
Many outsiders considered Favors to be a contender for that starting power forward position after a strong showing last spring and because of his potential. But the 21-year-old struggled on offense against the Lakers and Thunder, scoring only nine points on 2-for-11 shooting.
The 6-foot-10 big man did, however, prove to be a defensive menace, blocking seven shots in 41 minutes against the two conference favorites.
In contrast, Millsap scored 13 points with six rebounds in Utah's preseason loss at Golden State last Monday.
Millsap admitted he felt "a little sluggish" at Monday's practice after some time off. A cross-country five-hour flight from the Bayou didn't help him any.
"You still got to get your rhythm back," he said, "and you've got to get back into the mix."
Millsap didn't watch the Jazz games while away, but he was encouraged by what his teammates did in his absence.
"It's preseason. Glad we won the games," he said. "We still got a lot of things to work on, but from what I hear we (did) some good things."
On that note, Millsap spent a weekend fondly remembering the many good things — of much higher significance — his grandmother from Monroe, La., did in her 80-plus years.
The biggest life lesson Millsap said he learned from her: "Just family — take care of your family."
"She taught us a lot," he added. "She will be missed, but I know her, she wouldn't want us to feel sorry for her. She's in a better place, so I've got to move on."
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