Not only does Nuggets forward Paul Millsap want to reach the NBA Finals, he’d like to know what it feels like to defeat LeBron James in a playoff game, writes Kendra Andrews of The Athletic. When he was with the Hawks, Millsap faced James twice in the postseason and got swept both times. James is in Millsap’s way again as L.A. and Denver get ready to open the Western Conference Finals tonight.
“I told him, ‘Man, I tried to get away from you in the East,’” Millsap said about James’ move to the Lakers last season. “‘Then you came to the West.’ But finally, we’re at this juncture in the Western Conference Finals fighting to get to the championship game. He’s got several championships and I’m trying to get my first and I feel like this is my time to do that.”
Along with their shared playoff history, something else Millsap and James share is the ability to remain productive at age 35. James was an MVP finalist this year, while Denver coach Michael Malone said Millsap was the team’s “best player” during the regular season.
“You always have to have people like that, who set good examples, that you look up to,” Millsap said. “(LeBron) understands it. He wants to be the best. He wants to go out there and try to be the best every time he goes out there. So why not look at a guy like that who’s the same age and who’s doing really well in his career and in his life and take some of that with you?”
There’s more on the Nuggets:
- Gary Harris, who will be among the players responsible for slowing James down, gets his defensive skills from his mother, notes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. Joy Holmes Harris was a star player at Purdue three decades ago and her influence can be seen in her son, who has been a difference maker since returning from an injured hip late in the first round. “We had all missed ‘G’ out there a lot, and so when he came back it was no surprise the boost he gave us on both ends of the court,” Michael Porter Jr. said. “We’re just glad he’s feeling good and is with us right now.”
- The Nuggets aren’t optimistic that injured wing Will Barton will be able to join them for their playoff run, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Barton left the Disney World campus August 19 to get a second opinion on a lingering knee issue, and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said there’s still “no timetable” for his return. “We’re not here without Will,” Connelly said. “He’s such a huge part of our team. He’s working his tail off to try to get right. We thought the resources that were available outside the bubble would be better suited to get him there. There’s no timetable, but even though he’s not here physically, he’s certainly here in spirit.”
- Millsap and Harris picked up bonuses for reaching the conference finals, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Millsap received $200K and Harris got $100K.