Tom Bogert, CBS Local Sports
Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks is a self-proclaimed game-time dunker, which is why he was more than content to have a front row seat to the epic dunk contest that transpired during All-Star Weekend in Toronto between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
The thought of Millsap and a dunk contest incited JR of the JR Sport Brief podcast to say that if Millsap were included in the dunk contest, he’d have to get a human to dunk on. Different than the Orlando Magic mascot, who resembles something Dr. Seuss would’ve created for a children’s book, that Gordon leaped over. JR said this with one recent Millsap dunk in mind.
“If we’re going to put you in the dunk contest, you actually got to put somebody in your way under the basket,” said JR. “You may not want to say the name, but you yammed on somebody a few weeks ago, you went hard on somebody, man.”
Millsap, mercilessly, agreed with the notion of excluding John Henson’s name from the discussion. JR would fill in Henson’s name during the intro to the interview with Millsap.
“Yeah, I don’t want to say any names either,” said Millsap. “I’m a game-time dunker.”
The three-time All-Star said there was nothing better than having front-row seats to that brilliant exhibition.
“I got a front-row seat, so I’m able to see how high they’re really jumping and the creativity that’s put into it,” said Millsap. “It’s amazing, man. I wish I could get out there and compete and jump that high, but to have front-row seats to watching that, it’s even better.”
Despite the Hawks’ relative disappointment this season, because I dare you to try to convince a New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers fan that a 31-24 record is disappointing, Millsap’s numbers have actually improved on last year’s.
Millsap averages 17.4 points per game, with 8.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists, on 49% shooting this season, all improvements on last year. The power forward has been consistent in his career: he’s a dead certainty to score at least 16.5 points, if he gets 12 shots per game or more, and 7.5 rebounds. He’s done just that five of the prior six seasons.
Millsap believes the Hawks still are in a good position to improve on last season, despite the slow start, so long as the mentality changes.
“I think the mentality has to change,” said Millsap. “We have to let last year go, plain and simple. We’re not trying to compete against last year’s team, but we have to be better than last year’s team. I think the overall scheme of things is headed in the right direction, we can’t let the win/loss deter us from what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The 31-year-old feels the team is talented and that they’ll learn from their (relative) mishaps up until the All-Star break.
“I feel that our team is a really good basketball team, despite the record, despite the downs that we had this year. The future is definitely bright,” said Millsap. “We still have a lot of basketball to play this year, we still have a lot to get better at, a lot to learn from. We’ll use our failures this first half of the season to get better and learn from.”
As far as non-basketball activities are concerned, Millsap enjoys most sports as well as an obsessively competitive nature to get better at anything that he can. That’s how he became a soccer fan, his personal anger that he wasn’t very good at the popular soccer video game series FIFA.
“It was one of those challenges,” said Millsap. “Somebody challenged me to play FIFA, I wasn’t that great at it, so I had to take it to heart. I got into it, and the rest is history pretty much.”
In his downtime, he enjoys some other video games, and winning at them. He jokes that he need not worry about feelings as there’s no apparent human element in online gaming.
“The beauty of playing online is you don’t see any faces,” said Millsap. “You don’t see a person, you don’t add feelings into it. So it makes it a little easier to get at somebody.”
JR quickly assessed the situation.
“Yo, you’re ruthless,” said JR.
Thankfully, Millsap is anything but. He does great work in the anti-bullying community.
“I think it’s important, especially with our youth,” said Millsap. “Bullying is at an all-time high. We’re all equal, no one should feel or think that they’re better than another person, because it’s not right. It’s time to do the right thing, especially as parents we need to teach our kids better. And I think that’s how the world becomes a better place.”
As a fan of repetitive disappointment and frustration, Tom holds Liverpool FC, the New York Knicks and New York Red Bulls near and dear to his heart with occasional joy coming from the New York Giants and New York Yankees.