NBA AM: Mike Miller Ready To Lead
Mike Miller - VIDEO OF THE DAY
Memphis swingman Mike Miller talks about joining the Grizzlies, the ceiling for his team and what he expects from the season.Watch More Video Here
Mike Miller Rejuvenated?: During the 2012 NBA Finals Mike Miller was sitting in his HEAT locker before Game 5 joking with reporters. He’d go on to shoot 7-for-8 from the three to clinch the HEAT’s first championship of the LeBron James era. Just two hours before being the hero of the game, Miller admitted that he had moments were he could barely move and that Game 5 might be his last game in the NBA because his back had gotten so bad he could barely walk let alone run.
That summer Miller saw several back specialists that all recommended the same procedure, spinal disc fusion that would have likely ended Miller’s basketball career. Miller found one doctor who felt he could help Mike without surgery and that decision has changed his life.
“When I saw the doctors in Miami after the first championship things looked bleak, they really did,” Miller said to HOOPSWORLD. “I found one doctor, Dr. Barth Green, who really revitalized my career and gave me a regiment that has me feeling great. Knock on wood, but I haven’t felt this good. Even last year I didn’t play a lot in the regular season because they wanted to save me. But I’ve felt great the whole year, right now I’ve felt as good as I have in five years and hopefully it’ll stay that way.”
Miller is now with the Memphis Grizzlies. Miller was waived this summer by the HEAT under the one-time amnesty provision NBA teams can use to avoid luxury tax. Miller had his choice of situations but feels like he has found new life in the NBA and with the Grizzlies.
“Being here before helped and having a familiarity with the organization and the city,” Miller said. “But at the end of the day when the amnesty happened in Miami, it was all about finding a team that could contend or at least put themselves in a position to contend. Nothing is guaranteed, especially in this crazy league where there is so much talent. But they had the right pieces in place and I think it at least gives us an opportunity to compete for a spot in the West.”
Miller who was nothing more than a role player in Miami is expected to have a bigger role in Memphis, who is counting on Miller’s perimeter scoring to keep teams honest as they try and pack the paint on Memphis’ frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Casually a couple of Memphis players labeled Miller as the best shooter on the team joking that if Mike gets his feet set and has a little daylight he never misses.
The Grizzlies are hoping that in addition to being able to score, that Miller can bring some championship leadership to the locker room.
“It’s crazy to hear I’m one of the vet guys,” Miller said with a smile. “But I think you bring some of those championship things. You learn so much when you go through one of those runs. Even though this team has a couple guys who have rings in Tayshaun (Prince) and T.A. (Tony Allen) and they went to the Western Conference Finals last year, but getting over that hump is so difficult. Being a part of a team that went there three times and being on the winning edge twice and losing you learn so many things. It’s those small things that I hope I can help not only the players but the coaching staff and everything. I’m here for them whenever they need me.”
For the first time in a while neither NBA conference has a prohibitive front runner to make it to the NBA Finals. In previous years it was easy to pencil in Miami in the East and a small handful of other teams in the West, but this year there is no clear cut favorite, especially in the West.
“In this league there are definitely windows and you have to take advantage of it and this team needs to take advantage of those windows,” Miller said. “It’s my first year in the 14 years that I’ve played that if you fast forward this to July, there could be nine teams that wouldn’t surprise me if they were crowned champions.
“Obviously Miami is the favorite, but they’re in the East and the West is a lot more open but Houston has gotten better, OKC obviously is going to be there, San Antonio continues to be impressive, Golden State has gotten better. So it’s going to be a tough climb. The regular season is going to be a grueling regular season because you have to play those guys four times. The West is definitely difficult.”
Miller has spent a lot of time getting to know his teammates and what they do well, as well as get a sense of where their heads are at as a team.
“Memphis is better because of the experience the team got last year,” Miller said. “Anytime you play in the Western Conference Finals, you go through those slug matches and you compete at that level you get better. It was no different than when I was in Miami and we lost that first year, you get better because of that, you learn through that. I think Memphis has gotten back through that fact. If I can bring something and some of the other guys can bring some new stuff then it will be all the better. But, they’ve gotten better just through the learning process.
“I think they’re motivation is to win. We’ll find out early. As a team when you commit to winning you notice it early as the season goes because sacrifices are going to have to be made. Some people’s numbers have to change. That’s what it took from us in Miami is everybody having to sacrifice whether it was minutes or playing time or shots or scoring average; stuff like that. If you’re willing to sacrifice that, because we’re so deep as a team, we’ll have a great chance.”
We Want To Know:
The Return Of Greg Oden: The Miami HEAT are not expecting great things from center Greg Oden. They are realistic about where Oden is at in his rehab and his return to basketball. Last night Oden logged four minutes for the HEAT in New Orleans that included a nice dunk for the HEAT that ended the 1,418 day journey to get back to the NBA.
“It’s been a long time,” Oden said to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com after the game. “It’s been a long road for me, just to get that off my back, my first step tonight. I’m happy I’m able to walk off this court and I’m able to play another day.
“In December it would be four years, so four minutes, that’s enough for me. As long as I got out there and I walked off and I’m healthy, that’s all that matters.
Oden’s teammates were up off the bench clapping and cheering.
“I know the guys were happy for me. I definitely felt love. And I’m excited that they were there for me,” Oden said.
The HEAT put on a clinic of between the leg passes and dunks, but after the game even LeBron James wanted the story to be about Greg Oden.
“It was a very special moment,” James said. “I have no idea what my feeling would be like, being away from the game for three years. It was like a proud moment, man. I was so excited for him when he got on the court and he checked in — and his first basket he gets a dunk. Can you write it any better? Obviously he’s not where he wants to be, but the process is going great.
“I can just imagine how excited he was to get back out there. I’m going to have to take a toast for him, man. I ain’t no drinker, but I might have to take a shot for him. It was an absolutely great moment.”
The HEAT have said they will be cautious with Oden and his expected workload in the regular season is expected to be low, but Oden who has worked so hard to get back to the NBA, he made his first milestone and did it with some flair.
Checking In From The Locker Room:
Magic guard Ronnie Price talks about free agency, choosing the Orlando Magic and playing for Jacque Vaughn.
Rockets forward Omri Casspi talks about his new role in Houston, what he's been working on and how he fits with the Rockets.
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