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Elijah Millsap interview

Can Elijah Millsap be the Next P.J. Tucker?

Elijah Millsap is having a very good summer league with the 76ers and this isn’t his first trip to play in the NBA’s summer showcase. The 26-year-old younger brother of Paul Millsap has been getting looks from NBA teams since he went undrafted in 2010 and hopes to be following a similar track to P.J. Tucker who made multiple trips to Vegas in the summer before finally landing a job with the Suns.

“P.J. Tucker was 27 when he made pro,” Millsap said. “I am trying to do the same route as P.J. Tucker. Guys like that are very inspirational and give you hope.”

Millsap was first invited to Summer League in 2010 and it earned him a training camp invite from the Thunder, however he spent that season in Tulsa of the D-League and parts of the next three seasons with the L.A. Defenders. Millsap was signed by the Lakers for about 2 weeks in December 2011 and he has played in China, the Philippines and Israel, so the forward has never given up on his goal of playing professional basketball in the NBA.

“I just had a son,” Millsap said. “I want to be an inspiration to my son and my younger brother. I want to be the guy that inspires other guys. I want to maximize my ability and continue to get better and try to get to the NBA.”

However, the road to the NBA after reaching your mid-twenties isn’t an easy one as his agent Daniel Hazan explains.

“You simply have to outwork and out do everyone else,” Hazan said. “You got kids who were drafted and obviously they are younger and a lot more attractive to GMs and owners and you simply have to prove that you are better than all of them. Outplay and outwork them and you have to show that you belong. At an age like that (mid-twenties), GMs already think they know you, so they are already starting to write you off and you really have to come in there and show them otherwise, but it definitely a challenge and it is not a simple thing.”

Elijah Millsap game shotMillsap came to Summer League ready to prove he was better. In his first three games in Vegas, Millsap has averaged 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and just 1.7 personal fouls in 23.3 minutes and his play has been worthy of notice.

“He had 19 points last night and 7 steals,” Hazan said. “He has really been putting in the necessary work in Summer League to really earn himself a spot in training camp.

“There are GMs out there that have told me ‘I don’t know why you are sending this kid back to Summer League?’ and there are guys who are right on the cusp. At the end of the day, I believe in him and he believes in himself and that is all that really matters. Hopefully teams see his attitude, his focus and his determination to succeed. Hopefully they see a guy that is a defensive stopper, his 7 steals that is tying an NBA Summer League record is not a fluke. Leading all Vegas in steals per game at 4. So we hope he gets an invite to training camp and we’ll see what happens. I think we are in a great situation with Philly, a team that is wide open and we hope for the best.”

Philly Hoops Talk also took notice of Millsap’s performance:

“Elijah Millsap was incredible! His offense and defense were a big factor to the Sixers blowout, 85-63 win over Julius Randle and the Lakers. Mr. Millsap had 19pts on 5/7 from the field, went 9/12 from the line, and had a whopping 7 steals on defense (Summer league record). A truly great performance and may just earn him a roster spot.”

Hazan believes Millsap has the determination to win an NBA job and has the character NBA GMs look for in the players they need to fill out the back end of a roster.

“He is a leader out there,” Hazan said. “He is quiet, does his job, he is a good kid, very easy to work with, very easy to deal with, very respectful.

“When you are the 13, 14 15 guy, the number one thing is you don’t want a knucklehead. 1) He is the most humble respectful and quietest guy you are going to see out there. 2) He can play. He has the experience to be an NBA player. He has been in NBA training camps in the past, he has that experience. He just needs that opportunity from somebody to take him under their wing. He could come in and be an instant stopper on the defensive end. He can take it to the hole. He has it all. It’s just a matter of who wants to take that risk.”

Millsap has been showing in Summer League that his college defensive promise is worth another look now that he is a few years older and more experienced and in an NBA that puts a premium on players that can hit the long bomb, his D-League resume also proves he has NBA range on his three-point shot. 3-and-D is a valuable NBA skill-set these days.

Hazan may have found the NBA’s next “P.J. Tucker” in Millsap. He just needs someone to give him a chance to prove it.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.