As a kid, if you ever had dinner with your extended family on Thanksgiving or Christmas, then you know the drill. Adults and teens get to sit at the big table, while you get relegated to the kids table with maybe a sibling and a couple of your cousins. Not that there’s anything wrong with the kids table. It’s about your height and you don’t have a clue what those adults are talking about anyway, but it’s clear that you aren’t deemed ready to move up until the adults say you are.
Going after NBA free agents is kind of like that. Some teams have no intention of pursuing top players on the market, but the ones that do and are unsuccessful learn a harsh lesson very quickly: until those players take an interest in your team and are ready to sit down with you, there’s no way you’re moving up from the kids table. That’s the reality of doing business in a league where the stars run the show.
That’s been the Nuggets’ reality for basically their entire existence, and an obstacle they’ve spent the last few years trying like hell to overcome. During an offseason where superstars believe that their manifest destiny is out west and are joining forces left and right, the Nuggets simply could not hope to compete if they struck out in free agency.
Which is why signing Paul Millsap is arguably the biggest acquisition in franchise history.
Millsap’s arrival in Denver was a homecoming of sorts. As a kid who grew up in Montbello, it was like the prodigal son had finally returned. And during his introductory pressconference at his old school, Millsap said all the right things and looked genuinely excited to be back. But it was a quote from Tim Connolly that grabbed my attention.
At one point, Connolly looked at Millsap and said, “Thank you for taking the leap of faith.”
To me, that speaks volumes. Not just because Millsap picked the Nuggets as his next team, but how Connolly acknowledged the rarity of this whole situation. He may as well have said, “Thanks for letting me have a seat at the big table, Paul. And can you please pass the turkey?”
Millsap saw something in the Nuggets, and he was willing to bet the last years of his prime on the Nuggets not just surviving the bloodbath that is the Western Conference, but on thriving. That isn’t lost on anyone. Not on the Nuggets and certainly not on the rest of the league. If Millsap’s presence turns the Nuggets into a playoff team on the rise, it won’t be the last time they are invited to the big table.
And there’s no question that he will improve the Nuggets. Yes, they are still flawed. Yes, there are enough power forwards on the roster for the entire Northwest Division. Hopefully Connolly isn’t so starstruck by Millsap that he forgets to finish consolidating the roster, but regardless, the pride of Montbello has made the upcoming season an increasingly exciting one for Nuggets fans. And with any luck, our days of being stuck at the kids table are coming to an end.
So thanks, Paul. And hey, would you please pass the stuffing?