DENVER — Shake Milton prefers to stay in the moment.
And at this moment, the 24-year-old is the 76ers’ standout sixth man, who was averaging a career-best 13.8 points heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
“I just focus on what’s in front of me and what I’m doing right now,” Milton said.
But there have been a few occasions when he has reflected on his journey from being taken out of the rotation to becoming a key piece of an NBA championship-contending squad.
Some will point to Doc Rivers and his new coaching staff having faith in Milton. But the transformation started last season under former coach Brett Brown.
After the 2020 NBA All-Star game, Brown told Milton he was no longer in the rotation. The coach said he was going with a guard rotation of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, and Alec Burke. Brown told Milton to stay ready.
Milton did just that.
He actually took advantage of being in the starting lineup after Simmons suffered a back injury on Feb. 22, 2020, that sidelined him until the NBA restart. Milton averaged 15.3 points in his first three starts in place of Simmons. In the fourth game, he torched the Los Angeles Clippers for a career-high 39 points in a 136-130 loss.
In the process, Milton tied the NBA record for the most consecutive made three-pointers with 13 over three games. Milton made 7 of 9 threes against the Clippers, making his first five, to go with five assists.
From that point on, Milton has been a key contributor. This season, he’s been the Sixers’ go-to scorer off the bench.
The third-year veteran’s journey could serve as inspiration to unheralded players. Milton wasn’t selected until the 54th pick of the 2018 draft. As a rookie, he signed a two-way contract. He had his deal converted to a standard NBA contract before the start of his second season. However, Milton still played six games in the NBA G League with the Delaware Blue Coats.
“I’ve never really been the main guy,” Milton said. “Even growing up, I wasn’t the main guy, but I would say one thing I prided myself on is the work. You just have to have faith in things that can happen.
“As long as you put the work in, if you get a smidgen of opportunity or that door opens, just a little bit, you’ve got to be ready to kick that door open.”
Danny Green finding his groove
Danny Green had scored in double digits in six consecutive games heading into Tuesday’s contest with the Nuggets. This marks the fifth time in his career that the Sixers small forward has scored 10 or more points in at least six straight games. The last time he accomplished that feat was with the San Antonio Spurs in March 2015.