Yahoo's Marc Spears is one of the best in the business at getting players to tell him how they really feel. He got Greg Oden to open up about visiting a sports psychologist and now he's gotten Andre Miller to speak honestly about the battle for starting point guard.
Go devour that piece, it's a great read.
A few of the big time issues...
"If I was told right out when I had my meetings that I would be a backup, then I wouldn't have come here," Miller told Yahoo! Sports this week.
McMillan has said he told Miller during their summer meeting in Las Vegas that he very well might make him a reserve. Miller doesn't remember the meeting quite the same way.
"I feel like I have to continue to prove myself," Miller said. "I don't think I'm respected as a player. I have no idea [why].
"There are only so many point guards you can talk about and their accomplishments and stuff like that. I have a pretty good, solid resume, but I don't think it's respected. Head up, I think I'm just as good as any point guard in this league, defensively and offensively."
Most troubling, Miller makes a bold accusation regarding the conditioning test that Jason Quick reported Miller alone failed.
"I know I didn't make it," Miller said. "And if I didn't make it, there were probably two to four other guys that didn't make it. And afterward, those guys came to me and told me that their times were fixed."
This frustration shouldn't come as a huge surprise. As I mentioned in my Media Day Superlatives piece...
... You've got to wonder how a veteran like Miller feels about his Coach blasting the team's conditioning results to the media. For a guy who has worked hard to maintain his privacy over the years, he is probably feeling a little bit exposed right about now.
This situation boils down to a simple reality: Nate McMillan is making a player prove to his new coach, team and organization that he deserves the respect that the player already feels he has earned over the course of his career.
Do you kill Nate for sticking so steadfastedly to the "Blake is the starter until proven otherwise" philosophy? It's unorthodox but it's ultimately his method and he's trying not to make exceptions. I can get with that.
I think if you kill Nate for anything, it's for leaking the conditioning results. Do those need to be public? Does throwing Andre Miller under the bus like that help him acclimate to his new situation? Does it serve any purpose other than to create drama that doesn't need to be there?
The only way it makes sense: if McMillan felt that Miller needed the serious kick in the pants. And if that's the case? This will be a rockier transition than most of us have anticipated.
[See below for update]
Regardless of Miller's evident frustration and the continued unresolved starting lineup questions, I stick to what I concluded 10 days ago in the Superlatives piece...
Without a doubt, Miller's successful integration into this team is just as important to its longterm success as almost any other factor. If Andre does Andre that's going to be a problem. Surrounded by so many intelligent, dedicated-to-winning personalities, I don't think that it's very likely it will play out like that.
There's too much at stake.
Sooner or later, Miller will realize that griping isn't going to get him anywhere. On-court performance and staying drama-free off-the-court will get him the respect and playing time he wants.
Miller simply won't be able to gripe his way into the starting point guard job. Not with Steady Steve Blake lurking. Not with Brandon Roy leading in the locker room. And definitely not with Nate McMillan heading this group.
It took you just three pre-season games to get the start, Andre. If you continue to perform as you already have, it will be yours to keep. Don't give it back by popping off to reporters.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Update (4:44PM): There is some discussion in the comments regarding exactly how the conditioning results were obtained. Bottom line: it's Nate's conditioning test and Nate's results. The responsibility to keep those results private falls to him. If they leaked out intentionally or not it's still his responsibility. His players -- especially a guy like Andre Miller -- are going to turn to him for an explanation about how and why they are public.
And also, to be crystal clear, I'm not personally killing Nate for these conditioning results becoming public. It's not the end of the world. Indeed, when it happened, it merited only a small mention at the bottom of my report for that day. But of all the grievances that Andre aired, that's the one that makes the most sense. Playing time? Nothing is guaranteed. Starting? Nothing is guaranteed. Privacy regarding potentially embarrassing conditioning results? I think it's fair for a player -- especially a player in Andre's position, a private guy on a new team, working to fit in -- to assume he would have that.