Continued speculation about the future of Paul Millsap with the NBA trade deadline looming ended with a few words.
“He’s not going anywhere,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who also serves as president of basketball operations, to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “You can write that.”
Budenholzer reiterated the franchise’s position about their four-time all-star forward and best player before the Hawks played at the Trail Blazers.
The Hawks solicited potential offers for Millsap early last month as the team had a 16-16 record and appeared to be headed to a rebuild mode. A person close to the situation at the time believed there was at least one solid offer for Millsap on the table. The Hawks made an initial move by trading Kyle Korver to the Cavaliers for a future protected first-round draft pick.
However, the Hawks were in the midst of a seven-game win streak and the organization halted all conversations. The Hawks informed teams that Millsap was no longer available. Millsap said he was informed by team management, including Budenholzer, that he would not be traded.
Still, speculation continued that the Hawks could change plans again with the Feb. 23rd trade deadline on the near horizon.
Millsap said Monday that he was relieved to know his immediate future with the latest acknowledgement.
“Bud has been a man of his word,” Millsap said. “He has always shot it straight with me, always been honest with me. I take his word for what it is. It’s refreshing to know I’m not going anywhere and I’ll be on this team until the end of the year.
“Now, I’ve got to make it work. Stick to basketball and try to get wins.”
Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler has been with the Hawks recently, at home and on the road, and there have been meetings about the direction of the franchise, according to a person familair with the situation.
Millsap was named to his fourth straight Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve earlier this month. He joined Dominique Wilkins, Bob Pettit, Lou Hudson, Joe Johnson, Dikembe Mutombo and Cliff Hagan as the only players in franchise history to make four consecutive all-star teams.
Much of the speculation surrounding Millsap came down to two factors. He is clearly the Hawks best player as he leads the team in scoring and is second in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. The Hawks figured to get a decent return for a player of his caliber. In addition, he has a player option for next season and will most assuredly opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. Even with the uncertainty of being able to re-sign him long term, many teams were interested.
So, the Hawks could lose Millsap in the offseason without anything in return – as happened last season with Al Horford. However if Millsap does sign elsewhere, the Hawks would have in excess of $20 million to spend on another player.
Budenholzer said Monday that the Hawks could still make moves at the trade deadline if there is a way to improve the team. He also said he would be comfortable with the team as it currently is constructed.
The Hawks are in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Despite being 9-7 since the end of the seven-game win streak in January, the Hawks entered Monday’s NBA schedule fifth in the conference. They trail the fourth-place Raptors by a half-game and the third-place Wizards by 1-1/2 games. The Cavaliers and Celtics are separating themselves with leads of 6-1/2 and 4-1/2 games over the Hawks for the top two spots.