PUBLISHED: October 26, 2017 at 4:58 pm | UPDATED: October 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm
ATLANTA — Tucked away between a high school football stadium and a Motel 6 is a red-and-white warehouse-style building.
Walk through the front doors and look to the left, and a wooden No. 4 pops out from the wall. Look straight ahead, and a pair of glass doors open to an expansive space with three full basketball courts.
Welcome to Core 4, Paul Millsap’s freshly finished training facility in northeast Atlanta. This is where the Denver Nuggets practiced Thursday as they aim to snap out of a 1-3 funk to begin the season. But it’s also where Millsap first introduced himself to his new Denver teammates, offering up his basketball digs for a voluntary minicamp in August.
As Millsap prepares to face his former team for the first time as a Nugget, his gym essentially serves as a bridge between his All-Star tenure with the Atlanta Hawks and his new chapter in Denver.
“The fact that he allowed us to come in here,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, “it speaks to his willingness to understand, ‘I’m going to a new team and I want to try to create those bonds and that chemistry as quickly as possible.’ What better way than to come down here to Atlanta, in his town and his facility, and kind of start that?”
Malone and Nuggets management set an offseason goal to gather their players once a month during the summer. Then when Millsap became Denver’s marquee free-agent signing, the Nuggets suddenly had the perfect locale.
The facility’s construction was not yet complete, so Millsap’s crew rushed to lay flooring down in time for the Nuggets’ arrival. More than 10 players made the trip, Malone said, a “highlight by itself” because they needed to commit their own time and money to attend. For a week, the Nuggets worked through on-court drills during the day and bonded over dinners, movies and rounds of Top Golf at night.
“All that time is imperative that we spent together,” Millsap said.
Added Malone: “That’s such a big part of it. You bring all these people together, but if you’re not getting to know one another as teammates, as people, I think your chemistry is only so deep.”
The 44,000-square-foot facility boasts several slick amenities. A hot tub, cold tub and sauna. A weight room with turf and a track. Even a kitchen area with fancy backsplash tile and office space that will belong to Millsap.
But when asked about their favorite features, Millsap and Malone did not hesitate — the courts.
“I see open space,” Malone said. “I see a lot of room for us to get work in.”
The Nuggets utilized it all Thursday afternoon, darting from one court to another during drills. As teammates put up extra shots following practice, Millsap reflected on his four years with the Hawks, when the 6-foot-8 power forward expanded his game to the 3-point line and developed into a perennial All-Star and playoff regular. He expects a massive contingent of friends and family in the stands at Phillips Arena on Friday night, and acknowledged emotions will flow despite his typically calm demeanor.
Screams interrupted Millsap’s media session Thursday after veteran Richard Jefferson slammed home a nasty dunk over Trey Lyles.
It was the latest way Millsap’s Core 4 facility bridged his past with the Hawks and his new adventure with the Nuggets.
“I wish we could package this whole facility, put it on a moving truck and bring it out to Denver,” Malone said. “And paint it blue.”