Paul Millsap, a former Louisiana Tech and now Atlanta Hawks standout, has long been one of the more underappreciated players in the NBA, a do-it-all forward who has toiled in anonymity while playing in Utah and Atlanta.
Now he’s going to get a chance to really make a name for himself with Team USA.
Millsap was invited to Team USA’s training camp Sunday, with chairman Jerry Colangelo hoping the Hawks forward’s versatility will help the team’s frontcourt that has been hurt by several high-profile withdrawals in recent weeks.
“Paul has prior experience at the national team level having participated in the 2009 national team minicamp and offers us veteran inside player who possesses attributes that can be beneficial for us,” Colangelo said.
Training camp opens in Las Vegas on Monday, and the biggest challenge for the Americans will be to fill the void created by LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin choosing not to play on the team that will compete at the World Cup of Basketball in Spain. The team also announced Sunday that Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler will not participate in camp because of a groin injury.
Millsap averaged 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season in his first year in Atlanta and was selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He was even better in Atlanta’s first-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers, averaging 19.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. The 6-foot-8 forward shot almost 36 percent from 3-point range last season, and his ability to stretch the floor and pass could make him an ideal fit for international play, which puts both skills at a premium.
That well-rounded game, combined with a toughness that could prove to be an asset on a team that also has Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Kenneth Faried as big men on the roster, give Millsap a solid chance to make the team.
Now, after making his first All-Star team last season, Millsap gets a chance to build his résumé and increase his profile even more.
“I’m very excited about being added,” Millsap said. “I look forward to practicing with and competing against some of the NBA’s best for the honor of representing our country in Spain.”
The announcement came as somewhat of a surprise one day after Colangelo said he didn’t anticipate making any additions to the roster in the wake of Love’s decision not to play.
The Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star and veteran of the London Olympic team informed Colangelo on Friday night that he had to withdraw from the team given his uncertain future in Minnesota. Love, who can opt out of his contract next summer and has told the Wolves he wants to play for a contender, is at the center of high-profile trade speculation.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to acquire him to team with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. But those talks are currently on hold because Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick and the player the Wolves are demanding to headline a package for Love, cannot be traded until Aug. 23.
There are now 19 players on the roster, which will be trimmed to 12 for the World Cup. The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic bid to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.