Paul Millsap gets warmup for All-Star game

Paul Millsap was back in his native Louisiana on Wednesday. Call it a warm-up for his coming All-Star game experience.

The demand for tickets will be significantly greater when he returns in less than two weeks for the NBA’s midseason exhibition.

The Hawks played the Pelicans in a regular-season contest. Millsap, from Monroe, La., said the five-hour-plus trip on a weekday makes it difficult for family and friends to make the trip to watch him play.

That will change when he returns in 11 days for the All-Star game, to be played Feb. 16 at the New Orleans Arena.

“I’ve got a head count already,” said Millsap, who declined to reveal the exact number.

Is it double-digits?

“Way over,” he said with a smile.

Millsap, who spent much of his childhood in Denver after being born in Monroe, returned to Louisiana in 1999. He played collegiately at Louisiana Tech from 2003-06. There he became the only player in NCAA Division I history to lead the nation in rebounding three consecutive seasons.

When Millsap got the call last week that he was chosen an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve, it didn’t immediately hit him he would be going home. He had been a part of All-Star weekend before, taking part in the Rising Stars Challenge as a rookie and a sophomore. This is different. He’s going to play in the showcase.

“I didn’t understand the significance of it, but it’s a big thing, especially with it being my first one, being in Louisiana,” Millsap said. “You may not have this opportunity again. It’s great for my family to come and see it.”

Millsap made the All-Star game in his first season in the East after spending his first seven seasons in the West with the Jazz. Pelicans coach Monty Williams, who used to see Millsap several times a season, said the power forward is playing even better than he did in Utah.

“I always thought he had this kind of stuff in his game, but he is just getting more opportunities,” Williams said. “With (Al) Horford out, he has become the main guy, and he’s an All-Star. It says a lot about his ability to adapt to a different team quickly.

“He has always been a really good player, but now he is shooting more 3’s. He plays off the dribble more. Sometimes he looks like a (small forward) out there. He gives you a number of things you have to scout for. In Utah, he was playing in the system and in the paint more and at the elbow. Now, he is all over the place.”

One place he’ll be soon is near home for an All-Star game.