Paul Millsap Returns to Practice as Nuggets Get Set for Post-All-Star Playoff Chase

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

Wednesday afternoon was the first time Paul Millsap could truly see the light at the end of this very long injury tunnel. The Nuggets prized free agent practiced for the first time in three months, going through drills as the team reconvened for the first time since the All-Star break.

Afterward, Millsap said the wrist felt good, but did not put a timetable on his return. He will not play Friday in the Nuggets’ game against San Antonio, their first coming out of the All-Star break.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s going to be predicated on practices and how I feel after the practices. Hopefully pretty soon. It feels good now, we’ll see how it feels in the morning, and after tomorrow’s practice, and we’ll go from there.”

Millsap has missed 42 games since suffering damage to a left wrist ligament back in November. He had surgery on it and has been rehabbing ever since. Millsap said he hoped to return to the lineup about now, but also acknowledged getting back after the break was an optimistic timeline.

“That was my intention, to come back after the All-Star break and get right back into it, but you’ve got to be smart about it,” Millsap said. “This is my first practice today, full contact. I’ve got to be smart about my wrist, I’ve got to be smart about my body.”

Meanwhile, Nuggets coach Michael Malone talked about what life with Millsap might look like initially.

“How do you incorporate Paul Millsap back in?” Malone said. “Obviously, this was his first practice. Let’s see how he feels (on Thursday). Let’s see how he feels next week. But when he is back, there’s a good chance I start off by bringing him off the bench. He’s missed 42 games right now. And I think we’re 23-19 without him, and our group is playing at a high level.

“We don’t have a lot of practice time, so we’ll have to use games to try and get his rhythm back. … And hopefully within 24 games we find enough time to get Paul acclimated. … And once he’s kind of gotten his rhythm back, get him back in that starting lineup. That starting lineup, early in the year before he got hurt, was playing at a very high level.”

Millsap’s teammates were glad to see him back on the court.

“It’s nice,” guard Gary Harris said. “It was good to see him get back out there and get some reps with us. He looked good, so we look forward to getting him back on the court.”

Said center Mason Plumlee: “He looked really good. He looks like he’s in good shape. He had good touch on the ball, so he looks ready.”

How ready? Malone marveled at some of what Millsap was able to do in his first practice in months.

“He made plays tonight that I couldn’t believe he made after missing as much time as he has,” Malone said.

And Millsap, who will wear a brace on the wrist when he returns, said he’s ready to rejoin a Nuggets team that begins its post-All-Star portion of the season in the thick of a playoff race and winners in nine of their last 12 games.

“It feels good,” Millsap said. “Over the course of a season you’ll always have ups and downs. We’re definitely on an up.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.

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