The Journey of Andre Miller, Point Guard (part 2)

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This-here piece here concludes the long article on Andre Miller which began yesterday. If you haven't read part 1 yet, you probably should do that now. It appears directly below.


Since I have a little white space above the jump to fill, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Michael Tillery for his kind permission to use an extended excerpt from an interview he conducted with Andre at the end of the 2007-08 season. Dre is notorious for holding his cards tightly to his chest around journalists and frank quotes from his lips such as these are few and far between.

Michael writes feature articles on sports and politics for a top notch website called The Starting Five. I encourage you to stop by and check out his stuff. His index page is: http://thestartingfive.net/features-michael-tillery/ 

He also has a forthcoming book, The Son of Melancholy Jazz, which you can get a taste of at: "The Cardinal and the Blue Jay." Please do.

Lots of plugs, to be sure, but Michael is The Man... 

Thank you.

 

And so, without further ado, Miller Mania continues...

The Second Contract: Denver and Philadelphia.

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On July 16, 2003, the first day in which he was eligible to be signed, Restricted Free Agent Andre Miller, the man who had led the NBA in assists in 2000-01, signed an offer sheet with the Denver Nuggets, the scum-sucking catfish at the bottom of the Western Conference's tank. The contract was reported at the time to be worth $51 Million over 6 years, a healthy chunk of change. The Clippers were allowed until August 1 to match the deal, which the penny-pinching-and-pound-pocketing team predictably declined to do.

Denver GM Kiki Vandeweghe was enthusiastic about his new addition: "We had several objectives for this summer, one of which was met during the draft and probably our biggest objective is met today," Vandeweghe said. "We said that if we could get a top-quality point guard over the course of the summer, that we would all be excited. Today we got one of the best point guards."∞

Andre was finally paid. And happy.

"It has been a stressful last two or three weeks," he said. "I'm just grateful to be in this position and get this opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me. I'm just happy to get here, get this over with and move on."∞

Andre Miller may have been the new sheriff in Denver for the 2003-04 season, but few people took notice. His arrival on horseback was overshadowed by the arrival of a 6-foot-8 hip-hop thumping Escalade with tinted windows and spinners called Carmelo Anthony, third overall selection in the 2003 NBA draft.^

The pathetic Nuggets would not be laughingstocks of the league for long, boyyyyeeeeee...

Cue the soundtrack with its inappropriate language featuring many Ms and many Fs. Chugga-chugga-chugga.

Shout it out, fawning Media! — Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo!

Shout it out, casual fans of the NBA! —  Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo!

You, too, Nike! — Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo, Carmelo!

(What's the name of that new Point Guard again?)

The 2003-04 season, Andre's first year with the Nuggets, was the year of the turnaround. From 17 wins and a ready punchline for Jay Leno the team grew to a unit capable of amassing 43 victories and making the Western Conference playoffs. This marked the first time that Andre had made it to the playoffs and though the Nugs got flattened by the T-wolves in 5 games, it was a beneficial learning experience for the whole squad. Miller upped his regular season scoring average of 14.8 to 15.4 in the postseason. Great things were sure to follow.

Year 2 with Denver, the 2004-05 campaign, the team fortified its lineup with forwards Eduardo Najera and Kenyon Martin, who joined a powerful frontcourt which included Marcus Camby and the young Brazilian, Nené Hilario. The team moved forward nicely, expanding its win total from 43 to 49 — good enough to finish in 2nd place in the newly established Northwest Division.

During the 2004-05 season, Andre's points per game declined somewhat, down to an average of 13.6, but his shooting percentage rose a couple of points, to a career-high 47.7%, and his assists total sneaked upwards to 6.9 a game. Despite the improvement, Denver did not fare well in the playoffs for the second straight year, getting bopped in 5 games by the San Antonio Spurs, who would go on to win it all. Denver team management saw their squad against the league's best and it was clear that the crew in blue still had a long way to go.

With one brief exception, Andre Miller's personal life has been............ well, personal. In the fall of 2005, that changed dramatically when Andre briefly became tabloid fodder over a split with his girlfriend of two years, Jade Payne, with whom he had been living. Payne took out a restraining order on Miller on Sept. 26, claiming that Andre had been verbally abusive over the phone and left phone messages threatening to hurt her. For his part, Miller's attorney accused Payne of trying to "extort" money from Miller. Arapahoe County (CO) Magistrate Edward Burns Jr. closed the case on Oct. 18, 2005, ruling that Miller did not pose a threat to his ex-girlfriend.÷

We don't know how this relationship resolved itself (and it's none of our damned business, frankly) but the phrases "common-law wife," "her attorney," and "home in California" appear in the news account — a grouping of words which will elicit an involuntary shudder in many.

Life on the court was better.

In 2005-06, for the first time in 18 years the Denver Nuggets won a division title. That's the good news. Of course, coming out on top of a 4 team Northwest Division pales in comparison to winning in the much tougher 7 team Pacific Division of days of yore, but who's counting? On the minus side, Andre's Nuggets did not perform as well as they did in the previous year, losing 5 more contests during the regular season to finish with 44 victories.

In the 2006 NBA Playoffs the Nuggets were slated to play the Los Angeles Clippers who, despite their #6 seeding had a better record than division winner Denver and thus retained home court advantage for the series. Irony of ironies, Andre Miller would be going up against his old team.

The first two games in the series were won by the Clippers on their home floor in LA. The Nuggets picked up Game 3 at home, 98-87, but it was all downhill from there. The Clippers went on to win the final two games and advance to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, the first time such a miraculous event occurred since the Clippers moved to L.A. for the 1984-85 campaign. The Apocalypse was clearly nigh and people began selling their possessions, humping like bunnies in he streets, and preparing for doom.

Denver management had another reaction to the sign of the Apocalypse however. This marked the third straight season that the Nugs had been dealt an inglorious 5 game loss in the 1st Round of the playoffs. It was one thing getting whacked by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and the World Champion San Antonio Spurs, quite another losing in 5 to the Clippers. The Clippers!!! This Denver team was just not getting better, it seemed. Something needed to be done to shake this roster up.

Just 23 games of the subsequent 2006-07 season would pass before Point Guard Andre Miller would wind up as the one being shaken.

On December 19, 2006, Andre was shipped from Denver to Philadelphia as part of a trade bringing All Star gunner Allen Iverson to the Nuggets. In retrospect the Sixers ripped the Nuggets blind in the transaction, getting veteran Forward Joe Smith (1995's #1 overall draft selection out of Maryland) as well as two 1st Round picks in addition to Andre in exchange for the heavily tattooed 28 points per game ballhog. But the deal certainly didn't look that way at the time — the Nuggets were landing one of the superstars of the league for a most unflashy Point Guard that only hardcore fans of the association appreciated.

Once again, Andre Miller found himself being waved at by a former GM as he packed his suitcases to depart. Leaving Cleveland, leaving the Clippers — that stuff was just business. Andre and his agent had themselves forced the Cav deal, trying to land a contract as big as Zach Randolph's belly. The Clips? They were legendary cheapsters that obviously weren't going to pay the price anyway. Andre was scheduled to make more than those cost-conscious franchises could afford and everybody had done what they had to do.

This time it was different. This time it really hurt.

Together with That Carmelo Kid and Marcus Camby, Andre Miller had literally turned the Denver franchise around, gotten the formerly 17-win fleabag Nuggets franchise to the doorstep. And now that they had arrived, after over 3 years of sweat making a young team better, never once having missed a game due to injury, Andre was being told in as many words that he just wasn't good enough to be a Nugget. "Thanks and see ya, Andre — now a REAL player is being brought in to do the job right."

Nugget management saw Allen Iverson as a franchise player and Andre Miller as a sack of potatoes to be chucked on a flatbed truck and sent back east.

Not a nice feeling. ≠

Miller-story4_mediumIn Philadelphia, a new rebuilding challenge stared Andre Miller in the face. Miller joined  2nd year wing Andre Iguodala, sharpshooter Kyle Korver, a young Dukie named Shav Randolph, and an aging Chris Webber with the Sixers. It took Dre exactly one game to crack the starting lineup of this Sixers team.

Under the leadership of Head Coach Mo Cheeks, the Sixers finished the 2006-07 season with a record of 35 wins and 47 losses — and Andre Miller's team was out of the playoffs again. If there was an emotional saving grace for Andre, it was sitting at home watching the Iverson-led Nuggets having their butts wiped in 5 games yet again.

The 2007-08 season started off with more of the same. Then, suddenly, something clicked for the young men in black. It was happening. Whereas the talented young Clipper team that Andre had run as PG during the 2002-03 season had imploded disastrously and missed the playoffs, as young teams are wont to do, the situation seemed altogether different now.

"The guys were willing to learn and get better," Miller recalled. "That's not typical in the NBA —you've gotta deal with a lot of egos, a lot of attitudes. There wasn't one guy who came to practice and decides that he don't feel like practicing today. The group as a whole had good practice habits and pretty much took criticism well."¢

Lo and behold, during the second half of the season the Young Sixers started to gel. Better: they got red hot and started putting some tick marks in the wins column. The Philadelphia fans found the situation to be a nice change, very promising even, and the first thing you knew, the Sixers were in the hunt for a berth in the NBA Playoffs. The wins continued and Philly managed to sneak into the Second Season in the weak East as the 7 seed, this despite a record on the south side of .500 — 40 wins and 42 losses.

During the playoffs the Sixers met up with the Detroit Pistons, a 59-win powerhouse led by veteran Point Guard Chauncey Billups out of the University of Colorado. Nobody expected the Sixers to win, and they didn't — although they did manage to win games 1 and 3, forcing the Pistons to break a very serious sweat. This marked the first time in Andre Miller's career that he wasn't subjected to a 5-game whacking in the post-season. Andre played well enough, averaging 15.3 points against Billups, Hamilton & Co., but his assists declined precipitously against the tenacious Detroit D — a most un-Millerlike 3.3 dimes per contest.

Still, lessons were learned and the operative word was "promising." The Sixers looked to be on the doorstep and expectations ran high for the coming year from the Philadelphia front office and the team's demanding fans alike. The young team being well under the salary cap, Philadelphia GM Ed Stefanski decided to put the pedal to the metal, bringing in Clipper PF Elton Brand and signing the big UFA to a 5-year deal worth nearly $80 Million. He also ponied up another $80M to keep talented young wing Andre Iguodala in the house for another half decade.

The big money was spent. Now expectations ran really high — but patience was finite.

Unfortunately, Andre Miller and his team stumbled yet again coming out the gate to start 2008-09. The Sixers seemed like another team altogether, unable to build upon what they learned in their red hot finish of the previous year. As disappointed teams around the NBA began jettisoning their coaches one after another, Stefanski also began to get the itch. When the record fell to  9-14, he could take no more. Stefanski was on the red phone calling for the executioner.

On December 14, 2008, the Philadelphia 76ers became the 5th NBA franchise of the young season to sack their head coach. Legendary Sixer PG Mo Cheeks was given complimentary cardboard boxes in which to pack his things. The team had failed to meet expectations and it was the coach who would pay the price. So it goes in the NBA...

Andre did not blame Cheeks in any way for the team's performance. "You gotta give Maurice Cheeks credit," the current Sixers Point Guard said of the team's star of yesteryear. "He was working with a lot of young guys. He was in a really tough position. He didn't know what was going to happen in his coaching career. It's tough to work with young guys that came out of college early or straight out of high school. They have to learn how to adjust."¢

Signals began to be sent that the Andre Miller Era in Philadelphia was also winding down. With his contract running out at the end of the current campaign and their money already tied up in the long-term deals to Iguodala and Brand, Andre Miller and his expiring contract was openly shopped by the Sixers at the trade deadline in February 2009. While there seems to have been some interest in "renting" the PG for the duration by several teams, including the Portland Trailblazers,º there were ultimately no takers. Word on the street was that Andre and his agent were looking for a multi-year deal at something in the ballpark of $10 Million per — enough to scare stout and hearty managerial types and to cause the weak-kneed to soil their trousers.

No sooner had the janitorial staff got Mo Cheek's blood cleaned up from the chopping block when a very nasty pit bull named Karma bit Ed Stefanski in his fleshy buttocks. Chomp! Mo Cheeks was jettisoned after Game 23; big money newcomer Elton Brand went down with a badly dislocated right shoulder in Game 29. The injury was severe, requiring surgery and an anticipated 6 month recovery period. Brand was done for the year, and so too, it seemed, were the Sixers.

But not so fast.

Even though their new star went down on the battlefield, the 76ers did not. Despite the distractions, for a second straight year they managed to rally in the second half of the season, making the NBA Playoffs in the Eastern Conference once again. The team ended the year with 41 wins and 41 losses, good enough for the 6th seed in the lackluster East. Andre Miller did his part, racking up 16.3 points per game and adding 6.5 assists and 4.5 boards. He wasn't an All Star, but he played like one — and for the first time in his career fans around the country really began to take notice.

Despite putting an average of over 21 points per game on the board in the 2009 NBA playoffs (not to mention a stellar rebounding average of 6.3), Andre Miller and his Philadelphia 76ers were once again dispatched in 6 games in the first round. This time the kill shot was dealt by the eventual Eastern Conference Champions, the Orlando Magic. The outcome was expected. Now 33-year old Point Guard Andre Miller's deal was up.

Despite never having missed a single game during his entire tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers, Stefanski clearly signaled a willingness to cut ties with Andre unless an extremely favorable short-term deal could be arranged. Dre had been shopped heavily at the trade deadline without takers; now the Sixers elected to make him a low-ball offer — a 1 year deal at about the Mid-Level Exception, roughly $6 Million. Stefanski chose to ignore the multi-year new contracts given to Andre's Point Guard peers — $25M/3 years for 36-year old Jason Kidd and $18M/3 years for 31-year old Mike Bibby.ç Market? Schmarket! That was too much for Philly to handle... "One year at MLE — take it or leave it!"

Of course, Stefanski wasn't actually quite that blunt. That may be what he meant, but this is what he actually said: "To go long-term on a contract with an older point guard — we don't see that as a viable option right now. We have made an offer to Andre but they're looking for a better offer from other places."ç

Very diplomatic.

Despite the depressed nature of the 2009 free agent market, caused by fear of dropping league revenues and cap figures combined with a maxxed out financial position among most teams in the league, Andre Miller and his agent, Andy Miller, considered Philadelphia's firm insistence on a 1-year contract to be somewhat insulting and wholly inadequate.

"Age wasn't an issue when he was able to lead the team to the playoffs," agent Andy Miller declared. "I'm not sure whether the Sixers value [avoiding] the luxury tax or winning or losing or advancing in the playoffs as a priority."ç

And so, coming off a 16 ppg season and a 5th playoff appearance in 11 pro seasons, Andre Miller decided to depart. His quest: to find a team which could make use of his unique set of skills and appreciate him for his contributions.


The Third Contract: Portland Trail Blazers.

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As an Unrestricted Free Agent after the 2008-09 Season, Andre Miller had what all professional athletes desire — the freedom to write his own ticket, playing where he wanted to play, negotiating a deal for whatever the market would bear. Unfortunately, the market situation was such that there was no possible suitor for his services at anything near the $10.3 Million he was paid for the previous season.

Don't think for a minute Andre's move was only about more money, however. He would take a pay cut, but he earnestly desired the security of a multi-year deal — and appreciation.

Point Guards are highly sought-after in today's NBA and Andre was coming off an outstanding season, the unquestioned team leader and a consistent scorer and passer for the playoff-caliber Sixers team. 

What allows Andre Miller to perform at a higher level than many of his peers? Perhaps one answer lies in his meticulous use of film — both before and after games. Journalist Michael Tillery, who covered the Philadelphia 76ers throughout the 2007-08 season, noted that only Miller was religious about making use of locker room film study — a practice he developed during his college days at Utah, a place where preparation was king.¢

Now as an Unrestricted Free Agent, it was time for Andre Miller to plan for the next "game" — analyzing the possibilities afforded him by free agency, studying the teams that needed his services and matched his style. His agent would do the dirty work, but Andre would be ready when his name was called.

The young and athletic Blazers, a team on the rise, stocked to the rafters with legitimate ballers and featuring a unique family-like team chemistry were a good match for Miller, and he knew it. He patiently waited while Blazer GM Kevin Pritchard to sow his wild oats — first making a gambit to sign 6'10" Turkish wing Hedo Turkoglu (a UFA who decided at the 11th hour to spend 5 years with Toronto's convenient mass transit system rather than win a World Championship in Portland), then bidding on Utah's precious Restricted Free Agent Paul Millsap, a glass-eating low post muncher of a Power Forward. Utah matched, at great cost and with greater annoyance, and Portland had its cap room again.

Andre Miller was Plan C for the Blazers and he was okay with that. The New York Knicks were also in hot pursuit of his services — it came down to one or the other.

Oh, the Knicks were definitely in the game, let there be no mistake. Here's what Head Coach Mike D'Antoni, he of the uptempo "7-Seconds-Or-Less" system had to say of Andre Miller:

"He's one of the best point guards in the league. Just his awareness, his ability to set tempo and run the team. To get his team very good shots. The way he plays this game is on the ground. A lot of times players who do that are overlooked because usually the highlight on SportsCenter is people dunking and all that. But he doesn't make a lot of mistakes, knows the game and he's a winner."ß

Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh seconded the sentiments that Andre Miller was a desirable player.

"We've had conversations, but with no resolution — that's the extent of it. We're interested enough to talk, but we're not in any kind of deal mode at this point, and I'm not sure where it will go. I do think Andre is a good player.'' ‰ Compare and contrast this with the typical "No Comment" GM-speak that you hear around the league. The Knicks wanted him, all right, but the deal was pursued with Portland.

In July Andre flew out to Las Vegas, site of the NBA's Summer League, where he went to dinner at a poncy Italian restaurant with General Manager Kevin Pritchard, Head Coach Nate McMillan, and others in the Portland brain trust. Discussions were frank and earnest, with Miller impressively reciting details about the Blazers' current personnel and offensive sets and offering input on how his being on the team might help the franchise moving forward.

Andre wanted to land the Blazer gig in the worst way. He had prepared for his meeting with Pritchard and McMillan, quite clearly, a sign that he was serious about this team. When spotted in a hotel lobby after the meeting with team officials and asked nonchalantly by Blazer broadcaster Mike Rice if he wanted to become a Blazer, Andre gushed, "Oh man, you've got to help me out if you can. I really want this. This is the perfect fit for me, and things are looking very good. I can help this team." °

Blazer GM Kevin Pritchard waxed enthusiastic:

"He was so very impressive at that dinner," said Pritchard. "He knew absolutely everything about our team, our guys, our offense, and got very specific. He told us he could make everyone better, and told us specific ways he could help. You can only get this kind of thing in a face-to-face meeting." °

Pritchard continued: "At that dinner Andre seemed like a coach. He and Nate took over the conversation and I just kind of backed off a let them go. They were talking about different players, and different plays we run. I've never had this happen in a meeting like this." °

Everybody loved everybody. Happiness and joy. Better yet, the Blazers had some room under the salary cap and so the deal was done. Andre Miller signed a $22 Million, 3 year deal in which the first 2 years were guaranteed at $7M per season, with the Blazers holding a team option on Year 3 at $8M.

Talented swingman Andre Iguodala was less than pleased about the loss of main set-up unit, Philadelphia No. 7, but he wished Andre the best. "Portland's a good team, a young athletic group and he'll fit in perfect with them. He'll thrive in that system without having to do too much. Portland's going to be a much better team," Iguodala said. "I don't think they know what type of guy they got."∑

In a conference call with the media at the time of the transaction, Miller was upbeat and understated. "I'm just looking forward to the challenge, you know?" he said. "I know Portland wants to accomplish a lot of things, and I want to add to that."∑

Portland General Manager Kevin Pritchard was delighted to land the underrated vet. "He is one of the league's ironmen who brings a wealth of veteran leadership to our team and is a great fit for our young and improving roster," he stated to the press at the time the deal was done.∑

Head Coach Nate McMillan, while ecstatic to have added a smart, high-assists/low-turnovers veteran to the arsenal has made no promises to Andre about starting in the coming year. As he told broadcaster Mike Barrett in July, "Our starting unit last year won 54 games. We're not going to mess with that starting unit. I anticipate that we'll start out the same way, with Brandon and Steve as our guards, and then bring Andre and Rudy as the guards off our bench. Bringing them in with Martell or Travis in that second unit, as more of a running unit, would be a good combination."€

Concerning the starting job, Miller told Barrett: "I always want to go in with the mindset of wanting the starting job. If a player isn't think that, he's not a competitor."

How will this story end?

Stop back in a few years for Part 3, ha ha...


But wait, there's more! — The Gospel According to Andre Miller.

Despite his reputation as one of the least talkative players in the NBA, Andre Miller did give an extensive telephone interview to journalist Michael Tillery following the 2007-08 season which illuminates his persona.¢ Here are a few of his notable quotables:

Andre describes himself.

"I'm a person with a lot of heart. I'm competitive and I don't back down — I don't back down from anybody. I don't care how big or how small you are, I just go hard. I come from probably the roughest neighborhood you can imagine in any state. It was instilled early. It started with my Mom — how tough she was to deal with the odds she dealt with growing up and it carried over to me. It carried over. Don't give me all the credit. Give my mom the credit. Give my godparents the credit. Give the friends and family that pushed me as a person and a player the credit."

Andre's advice for young players.

"Basketball, like life, isn't guaranteed. Don't get down on yourself. You've got to have a plan A, B, C and D."

Andre on the importance of having a positive base.

"Everyone says it starts in the home, but some kids don't have that home base. I grew up with a single Mom so if you are in the same situation, you have to put yourself in a position and surround yourself with positive people. That's something I learned at an early age. My closest friends actually had both parents in the household. It was nothing for me if I got bored or tired of hanging out with my cousins in the streets to go over a friend's house and be around their family. They accepted me for that."

Andre describes his game.

"I'm an old fashioned type of basketball player. One thing I don't like as I get older is that people take the game for granted. They don't respect the game. Anybody can go out there and put a ball in a basket or dribble a ball between their legs, be fancy and show off.

"There is a right way to play basketball. People look at basketball the wrong way. Some parents look at basketball the wrong way. They feel like if their kids can score the ball that their kid is going to be the next Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

"Everybody can't be Kobe or LeBron. Be able to make simple plays and communicate. Be able to not be an individual. You have to play as a team. If you play it the right way, everybody is gonna get the attention. There is always going to be somebody who gets more exposure because of their talent. Just as they notice that star they notice the little things that makes the team get better. People see that eventually."

Andre on the structure of the NBA.

"You have role players, you have stars and you have the blue collar worker. The way this league is — it promotes stars. That's how the league makes their money.

"I think a star in this league is a guy that can make all his teammates better, that's willing to communicate and is willing to make plays in the clutch. A leader and a star is also a guy that when things aren't going right is able to step up and say these are the things we can do right as a team. A star is also someone who can admit when they aren't playing to their potential and accept criticism."

Andre on his career to date.

"I've pretty much done the same things throughout my career, but I haven't played on the greatest teams... I helped a lot of teams get better. I helped Carmelo Anthony get better as well as a lot of the other players. I was under the radar — which, as you know — I don't like all of the attention. You want people to respect that.

"I'm a little bit different. I have to mix up being a player as well as a coach. It felt like sometimes I was a coach instead of a player at times. Putting guys in the right spot. I give those guys a lot of credit for getting better, but I think I played a major role in the younger guys getting better."

Andre on finally getting recognition late in his career.

"The crazy thing is that I've been in this league nine going on ten years now. I was doing the same things I'm doing in Philadelphia that I did in Denver, LA and Cleveland. I never got any recognition for it."

 

So what have we learned?

1. Andre Miller didn't grow up in suburban affluence — he's a child of the inner city, having grown up in Compton and gone to school in Watts. He's the son of a working class single parent who did her very best for him and had an extended family that looked out for him. In the great tug-of-war between peer pressure and familial influence, the latter won. He attended private school and a Catholic high school, was on the honor roll and became a basketball start due to pure diligence. Yet he couldn't "pass" the ACT and wound up with few collegiate options. 

2. Andre went away from South Central LA to go to college in Salt Lake City, where he went to school with whites for the first time. (Wrap your head around that sentence!) He had to sit out a full year because of his low entrance exam score but through hard study and yearly stints in summer school he still managed to graduate with a degree in 4 years. Andre Miller is not smarter than his peers, he simply works harder than anyone else. (Let that also be a lesson about the excessive significance placed upon standardized testing.)

3. Because Andre went to college as long as he did (classes years 1-4, basketball years 2-5) he actually had time to earn two degrees, double majoring in Sociology and Point Guardery. Andre had the five things really necessary to excel: A. Commitment to the position; B. Humility enough to recognize that for a PG to really succeed, it will be others who get the glory; C. Brilliant instruction from coach Rick Majerus; D. A strong work ethic in learning the craft; E. Time to jell.

4. Andre came out of school NBA ready, much like Brandon Roy. He was highly touted coming out of college and was a lottery pick in a stacked draft. Sadly, he has had the great misfortune of playing with a series of very young and very green teams. His efforts and abilities were largely unheralded until the young and athletic Philadelphia 76ers uexepectedly took off in the 2007-08 season. Even then his GM did not appreciate what he did on the court and he was basically forced to leave in free agency at the expiration of his second contract.

5. Andre Miller is a good person with a good attitude. He does not keep his silence with the media because he is a jerk, it is just his nature. He chooses to keep the world at arm's length. In the words of his mother: "Andre is just a very humble person. Very humble. He gets a little verbal on the court, though."¢ As a PG who combines high-level skills at both passing and scoring inside the circle, Andre Miller is an outstanding fit for the Blazers, who have needed one more veteran presence.


Footnotes:

†— [Tim Davenport]: A Ron Artest Review — The Soap Opera So Far," Silver Screen and Roll, http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2009/7/4/937998/a-ron-artest-review-the-soap-opera, July 4, 2009; "Lamar Odom: From Mean Streets sans Mean Streak," Silver Screen and Roll,  http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2009/7/30/938664/lamar-odom-from-mean-streets-sans, July 30, 2009.

‡— Michael Tillery, "Andre Miller: The Reticent Alchemist," The Starting Five,  http://thestartingfive.net/2008/08/13/andre-miller-the-reticent-alchemist/, 2008.

◊— Albert Lin, "Athlete of the Day Profile: Andre Miller, Utah," CNNSI, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/college/events/1998/tournament/men/spotlight/miller.html, March 20, 2008.

¢— Michael Tillery, "Forgot About Dre: Interview with Andre Miller," The Starting Five, http://thestartingfive.net/2008/06/20/forgot-about-dre-interview-with-andre-miller/, June 20, 2008.

±— David Fleming, "A Point Well Taken: Fearless Rookie Andre Miller is the Cavaliers' Playmaker of the Future, Sports Illustrated, http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1018966/index.htm, April 17, 2000.

§— South Central LA's bad reputation was largely made through music, such as NWA's album Straight Outta Compton (1988), and by such films as Boyz N the Hood (1991), South Central (1992), Menace II Society (1993), along with the grim reality of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Despite a slow trend toward gentrification, the area still faces crime and violence rates greatly exceeding national averages. Wikipedia, "South Los Angeles," retrieved July 31, 2009. 

¥— Tom Moore, "Miller Old-School Model in Classroom, On Court," Philadelphia Intelligencer/PhillyBurbs.com, http://www1.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/100-04222008-1522825.html, April 22, 2008.

∆— Wikipedia, "Verbum Dei High School," retrieved July 31, 2009. 

Ω— Greg Sandoval, Miller Makes Grade, Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/1998/mar/19/sports/sp-30645,  March 19, 1998.

√— These numbers have subsequently been revised several times. Julie Ann Grosshans, "Tougher NCAA Rules Force USU Athletes to Hit the Books Hard," Hard News Cafe, Utah State University Dept. of Journalism and Communication, http://newscafe.ansci.usu.edu/archive/june2002/0606_ncaa.html, June 6, 2002.

ß— Jon Marks, "Utah Utes Basketball: Andre Miller Fondly Remembers Trip to '98 Final Four," Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705291379/Former-Utah-star-fondly-remembers-trip-to-98-Final-Four.html, March 17, 2009.

¶— "Andre Miller Bio Page," NBA.com, http://www.nba.com/playerfile/andre_miller/bio.html

∂— "It's Miller Time Again," University of Utah Crimson Club, http://www.crimsonclub.utah.edu/ForeverUtes_Andre_Miller.htm, 2006.

∫— Phil Nation, "Andre Miller," 1999 NBA Mock Draft, http://www.ibiblio.org/craig/draft/1999_draft/Players/miller.html

£— For Andre Miller's college stats, see 1999 NBA Mock Draft, http://www.ibiblio.org/craig/draft/1999_draft/Players/miller.html

π— For a complete list of members of the 1999 draft class, see http://www.geocities.com/nbarookies/1999nbadraft.htm. The Blazers did not have a selection in the 1999 draft. Prize for worst pick of that night goes to the Toronto Raptors for their inspired selection of 6'11" high school swingman Jonathan Bender with the #5 choice. In his career Bender average a mere 5.6 points in just 237 NBA games. The guys who immediately followed him in the draft order — Szczerbiak, Hamilton, Miller, and Marion — did a little better.

µ— For career stats see: "Andre Miller," Basketball Reference.com, http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/millean02.html

ø— I have found the following internet references helpful: What If Sports.com for rosters and advanced stats, for example: http://www.whatifsports.com/nba-l/profile_team.asp?hfid=5&season=2000-01 and the Spanish-language Basketpedya for quick statistical averages, for example: http://www.basketpedya.com/Acc003InfTeam.php?ideq=66&temporada=2001

Æ— Ian Thomsen, "New Kidd on the Block," Sports Illustrated, http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1026376/index.htm, Aug. 12, 2002.

@— "2002 FIBA World Championship," Wikipedia, retrieved Aug. 1, 2009.

≤— Joe Stevens, "LA's Newest Star? Clippers Ecstatic About Return Home of Point Guard Miller," Los Angeles Daily News, http://www.thefreelibrary.com/L.A.'S+NEWEST+STAR%3F+CLIPPERS+ECSTATIC+ABOUT+RETURN+HOME+OF+POINT...-a090042271 , 2002.

∞— "Point Taken: Nuggets Land Andre Miller," Associated Press, http://archive.sportingnews.com/nba/articles/20030801/485984.html, Aug. 1, 2003.

^— Let us take a moment once again to laugh at Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons. Here is how the 2003 NBA Draft went down: 1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers; 2. Darko Miličić, Detroit Pistons; 3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets; 4. Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors; 5. Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat. Cue the laugh track and join in. Current Portland Trailblazer Travis Outlaw was the 23rd pick in this famous draft, which also included All Star David West and Great White Hope Kirk Hinrich.

÷— Felix Doligosa Jr., "Restraining Order on Nuggets Player Dismissed," Rocky Mt. News, http://www.lipstickalley.com/f4/andre-miller-restraining-order-lifted-16543/, Oct. 20, 2005.

≠— It was not until 2007, when the Iverson-era was sputtering, that the theoretical question was finally seriously posed by the website Wages of Wins whether it was Carmelo Anthony (as popular mythology had it) or some other factor which turned around the fortunes of the Nuggets in 2003-04. A careful statistical study was compelling in making the case that the key factor in the Nuggets' turnaround was the play of newcomers Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, rather than that of the relatively inefficient rookie. See: DJ, "Did Melo Resurrect the Nuggets?" Wages of Wins Journal, http://dberri.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/did-melo-resurrect-the-nuggets/, Sept. 12, 2007.

ç— Marcus Hayes and Phil Jasner, "Contract Talks Between Sixers, Andre Miller Sound Like Parting Shots," Philadelphia Daily News, http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20090709_Contract_talks_between_Sixers__Andre_Miller_sound_like_parting_shots.html?viewAllLatest=y&text=, July 8, 2009.

‰— Phil Jasner, "Knicks Admit Interest in Andre Miller," Philadelphia Daily News, http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20090721_Knicks_admit_interest_in_Andre_Miller.html, July 21, 2009.

∑— Annie M. Peterson and Karen Araiza, "Andre Miller's a Trail BlazerHe's getting a three-year, $22 million deal," NBC Philadelphia, http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/sports/Andre-Millers-a-Trail-Blazer.html, July 28, 2009.

€— Mike Barrett, "McMillan's Options," Mike Barrett's Blog, http://mikebarrettsblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/mcmillans-options.html, July 27, 2009.

º— Mike Barrett, "Miller Time," Mike Barrett's Blog, http://mikebarrettsblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/miller-time.html, July 24, 2009.

 

This article is dedicated to Jerryd Bayless, an incoming College Junior in real time, with the hope that he can remain patient, avoid the demons of avarice and envy, and learn the craft from the new coach.  —t.

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