Posted Aug 5 2010 11:09AM
In Houston, he could be known as the late Brad Miller. By more than a decade.
The first time that Miller turned up on the radar screen of the Rockets, it was 1998 and he was playing for then-coach Rudy Tomjanovich in Greece.
In a summer of labor turmoil that resulted in a roster full of NBA players canceling their trip to the World Championship, Tomjanovich found himself guiding a mongrel mix of players from the college ranks and the now-defunct CBA into elite international competition.
From the first days of practices to the last day of the competition when the United States -- the Dreamer Team -- hustled its way to a hard-fought bronze medal, Rudy T had his eye on the scrapping, banging center with the nice mid-range shooting touch from Purdue. He vowed to get him to Houston.
A dozen years later, Miller has at last arrived.
"It's been a long time coming," Miller said. "It almost happened 12 years ago and ever since [coach] Rick [Adelman] got here, I wanted to come down here," Miller said. "He has been my favorite coach with his whole system. And Texas in general, I feel like my personality needed to be in Texas at some point...All my friends knew this is where I wanted to be. I'm finally here in Houston."
Tomjanovich tried to sign the undrafted Miller as a rookie, but he had already made a commitment to Charlotte and didn't want to break his word. That started him on a career that has taken him to Chicago, Indiana and Sacramento, where he enjoyed playing for Adelman, for both the style of his ball movement offense and his attitude.
"With Rick, if you don't do it right, you don't play," Miller said. "You play his system. You had a guy like Gerald Wallace in Sacramento and he didn't play for three years. Now he's an All-Star, but with Rick he didn't play, because he didn't get it.
"That's just the way it is with Rick. Ron [Artest], maybe, was able to get away with a little bit. But he tells you what he wants done. If don't do it right, you don't play. It's simple. Then when you're playing with 27 assists a game, everybody is happy. You get easy buckets and that makes the defense better and everyone happy."
The Rockets are happy to finally get Miller, even at 34, because with Yao Ming returning from a year off following reconstructive foot surgery and his minutes restricted, they need a backup center that can not only take up space in the middle of the offense, but score, pass and possibly play extended minutes. In recent seasons, Dikembe Mutombo was just a shot blocker and the undersized Chuck Hayes someone who had to spend virtually every ounce of his energy defending his turf.
The down-home and down-to-earth Miller says he's got parts of his game that Houston fans will now appreciate more on an 82-game basis.
"How slow you can be going to the basket and still get to the basket," he grinned. "You've only seen it once a year up to now. It's in the scouting report, but it still works. I call it blazing quickness."
While his numbers fell off (8.8 points, 4.9 rebound, 43% FG) last season in Chicago, the Rockets and Miller are convinced he'll bounce back due to his fit in the offense. Plus, he'd already done virtually everything except move his furniture into the Toyota Center over the past few seasons in preparation for the move.
"I've been talking to the [Rockets] players for four years," said Miller, who had previously teamed with Kevin Martin on the Kings and with Shane Battier at the 2006 World Championship. "I didn't go into the shower (ala Artest, as he sold him to the Lakers following their 2008 Finals loss to Boston). I've been in the locker room talking to the coaches -- before games, after games."
In recent seasons, Miller has even done his share of talking to some of the Rockets on the court while playing against them.
"I know Rick's offense better than most of them," he said. "So we'd be out there in games and I'd hear them call a play and I'd see a guy doing it wrong. So I'd say, 'Hey, you need to be over there. You're in the wrong place."
Unlike the late Brad Miller, who's made his way to Texas, the right place. Finally.
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