Expanded game helps Millsap become All-Star

The 3-point shot may be responsible for Paul Millsap’s rise to All-Star status.

The Hawks power forward was selected Thursday as a reserve for the NBA All-Star game, to be played in New Orleans on Feb. 16.

According to Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, Millsap’s extended range this season is one of the reasons Eastern Conference coaches voted him into the game. Entering Friday’s game against the 76ers, Millsap was 41-of-111 from 3-point range as a Hawk. In his first seven seasons with the Jazz, Millsap was a combined 31-of-113 from long range.

“There was probably a year or two when he got considerable All-Star consideration in the West,” Budenholzer said. “His game has improved this year. Extending his range to become a 3-point threat really makes him more unique.

“That is a real addition to his game, a real growth. There are other areas where he has grown and done more for us than he has in the past. There has been a real opportunity here, and he has taken advantage of it.”

Millsap said the fact he was named an All-Star still hasn’t sunk in yet. He credited the maturity of seven-plus seasons in the NBA as the main reason for his improved game.

“I feel like everything up until this point helped me to get here,” Millsap said. “It’s definitely been a learning experience for me, and I feel like this year I finally understood (the game). I finally got it. I credit a lot of that to the past seven or eight years.”

Sure to have made opposing coaches take notice has been Millsap’s play since the season-ending injury to Al Horford. Millsap has averaged three more points per game since the loss of the two-time All-Star center. He has also improved his assist, steal and block numbers.

Teague returns: Point guard Jeff Teague returned to the starting lineup Friday after missing the past two games with a left ankle sprain. He was cleared to play after being listed as a game-time decision.

Teague, who was on the fan portion of the All-Star ballot, drew praise from TNT analysts Thursday when the All-Star reserves were announced.

“He might not be an All-Star, but he’s the most valuable player on the Hawks,” Kenny Smith said. “If Horford gets hurt, the Hawks can sustain … but if (Teague) gets hurt, they cannot sustain.”

Nunnally contract expires: The second 10-day contract of James Nunnally expires Saturday. The Hawks are unlikely to sign the forward for the remainder of the season.

With two big men injured, Horford and Pero Antic, and the NBA trade deadline three weeks away, the Hawks would need roster flexibility to either sign or trade a player. With Nunnally the Hawks are at the maximum 15-player roster limit.