Did LeBron James Influence Coveted Free Agent’s Decision to Join Nets?

Paul Millsap and LeBron James

Getty LeBron James watches a pass from Paul Millsap during a preseason game between the Lakers and Nuggets at Valley View Casino Center on September 30, 2018 in San Diego, California.

Paul Millsap likely didn’t need a lot of convincing to join the Nets. Brooklyn is a top-tier title contender, after all, and the 36-year-old Millsap is running out of chances to chase his first championship ring.

But could LeBron James have provided the last nudge that compelled Millsap to head to Brooklyn?

Perhaps. Millsap, a four-time All-Star, chose to sign with the Nets over other top contenders like the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Joining the Nets would bring the former Denver Nugget to the Eastern Conference – and away from James, who has played for the Los Angeles Lakers since joining them in 2018.

That’s been a major sticking point for Millsap, according to comments he made to Kendra Andrews, formerly of The Athletic, last year. Millsap, who has played for the Jazz, Hawks and Nuggets, is 1-12 all-time in the playoffs against LeBron-led teams.

“I told him, ‘Man, I tried to get away from you in the East,’” Millsap told Andrews in September 2020 of what he told LeBron after he joined the Lakers. “‘Then you came to the West.’”

“I’d be lying I said I didn’t,” Millsap told The Athletic when asked of having a personal goal of beating James in the conference finals. Millsap and the Nuggets were presented with that opportunity during the 2020 playoffs, but fell to James’ Lakers in that series 4-1. The Lakers went on to win the title in 2020.

“I felt like we had really good teams and we always came up short and at the end of the day I’m just tired of coming up short in those situations, especially against him,” Millsap said, per Andrews. “Nothing personal, but you want to compete against the best and beat the best and I’m ready to make that next step.”

Now as part of one of the most talented NBA rosters ever assembled, Millsap – along with Brooklyn’s Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving – has another shot to dethrone LeBron this upcoming season.

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Millsap Becomes a Valuable Role Player for Brooklyn

The 36-year-old Millsap is well past his prime at this point, but he’s the type of role player that the title-hopeful Nets could deploy late in important games and feel confident about.

The 6-foot-7 forward has averaged 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds over 1,052 games in his NBA career, though he averaged only 9.0 and 4.7 in 20.8 minutes per game last season for the Denver Nuggets. Still, his prowess as a defender is intact; last season, he registered 1.1 blocks and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes.

In an article for Bleacher Report in late August, NBA writer Jake Fischer added this analysis: “Millsap could very well end up being this year’s Nic Batum, a skilled mercenary who rounds out a playoff unit’s starting lineup or top of their rotation in a reduced role.”

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Twitter Reacts to Millsap News

On social media, the reaction to Millsap agreeing to sign with the Nets was swift and one-sided. The consensus by analysts: the rich get richer.

And as for the reaction among fans? Measured excitement – mostly.

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