Rookie Tales: C.J. Miles

November 27, 2012
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

The Cavaliers are one of the youngest teams in the NBA – with a pair of rookies, a pair of sophomores under 22, and a group of young veterans who aren’t far removed from their freshman season.

C.J. Miles was a rookie seven seasons ago. And he doesn’t turn 26 until this spring. He was part of the last NBA Draft class to allow players to be drafted right out of high school. Other teams in that Class of 2005 made it count. Aside from Miles, other high schoolers selected include Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis and Louis Williams.

That era seems like a long time ago and the debate over David Stern’s ruling is still cause for controversy. For every Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, there was always a Korleone Young or two.

Miles starred at Skyline High School in Dallas and was tabbed with the fourth pick of the second round – 34th overall – by the Utah Jazz, who took Deron Williams with the No. 3 overall pick in the first round.

It couldn’t have been easy for any rookie to end up in Jerry Sloan’s clutches – let alone a kid who was in high school homeroom just a few months earlier. But Miles made it through – playing in 23 games as a rookie, scoring a total of 79 points in his first year in Utah.

Mile eventually became a key cog in Utah’s rotation, but after seven years, he inked a free agent deal with Cleveland this offseason. And the easy-going small forward took a minute to talk with about his first season in Salt Lake City …

What do you initially remember about your rookie season with Utah?
C.J. Miles: I remember the biggest thing was that I was always so tired. I slept any time I had a chance to sleep. The bus ride – if the bus ride was five minutes, I’d be sleeping two minutes into it.

You go from playing two games (a week) in high school to playing four games in five nights, sometimes in a different city every night. I was just exhausted. And I wasn’t even playing! I can’t imagine what it’d have been like if I was playing.

And then, just the transition of being a kid, basically, living on your own in a place I couldn’t have picked out on a blank map before I moved there.

Were you homesick?
Miles: Yeah, I was.

And then the snow came! And I’d never even seen snow – let alone know how to drive in it.

I remember my first accident. I hit the pole right outside my parking garage. It had snowed really bad and I was coming out, going a little too fast, and I slid out and hit the pole. I didn’t even get out and look. I just put my head on the steering wheel and sat there for two minutes. I just backed up and drove to practice. I didn’t even go look at it until after practice.

Everybody was like: ‘You know you hit something?’ And I was like: ‘Yeah, I know.’

Was Jerry Sloan as tough as his reputation suggests?
Miles: He was really tough on me – which I was thankful for. It helped me out a lot.

I know how he is with young guys – you feel like you have to pay your dues. And he was really tough on me.

He was tough on the team, too. Because the year before – before (Deron Williams and I) had got there, they had won 26 games. That was the worst season he’d ever had. And he wasn’t happy.

I remember that Training Camp. He was going at us. I mean, he went at us every Training Camp, but that was my first one (in the NBA), and I really didn’t know what to expect, on top of being Jerry Sloan’s Training Camp. It was tough.

So he wasn’t interested in taking it easy on a kid right out of high school?
Miles: (laughs) That was his reason to put his foot on my throat!

You were joining a veteran Utah club. How did they treat you?
Miles: They were cool. Me and Deron were the two rookies. And Robert Whaley. They messed with Robert Whaley more because he was, like, Robert Whaley.

And then, with me, whenever they’d tell me to do anything, I’d just do it and didn’t say anything. So eventually, it wasn’t fun for them anymore because I didn’t complain about it.

So the first thing I had to do was, Greg Ostertag would make me carry his shoes to Training Camp. Made me get up, like, super-early, to get his shoes. And the first day of practice, he made me bring his shoes two hours before the bus got there. And throughout the year, (I’d) carry bags here and there and bring donuts to shootaround.

But they pretty much left me alone. Every now and then, they’d throw some random jobs at me. But they pretty much left me alone. My vets were older. Greg (Ostertag) was worried about getting home to his wife and kids. He wasn’t worried about me. (Carlos) Boozer – same way. Mehmet (Okur), same way. Matt Harpring definitely didn’t care. He was like, ‘I’ve got better things to do than making sure some 18-year-old kid gets me a newspaper.’

And then, when you became one of the veterans in Utah?
Miles: The next couple years, (veterans) got tougher. But I wasn’t in on it because, I mean, the rookies were older than me. So I wasn’t trying to tell anybody what to do. How am I supposed to tell a player two years older than me what to do?

But the other guys – the vets would mess with them a little bit – kicking the balls in the stands and stuff like that. Last year, they made Enes Kanter run all the way to the top of the top row of the bleachers. They got a letterhead from Baylor and wrote a letter that said Brittany Griner wanted to date him. All types of stuff.

You didn’t see much time as a rookie. How tough was it going from being a high school star to not playing? Andy regrets that year?
Miles: That was the worst! I wasn’t even dressing.

I didn’t feel like I regretted the decision. I just felt like I wanted a chance. I felt like I could have played, but obviously, looking back at it now, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I thought I would have been able to do.

I got to play in spots when there were injuries. But I want to play so I could get to where I needed to go faster. So I can get the experience.

But it was tough. Sitting behind that bench in a suit was the hardest thing.

How was the culture shock of going from Dallas to Salt Lake City?
Miles: It was so different! People were so different. But Utah has great people and they LOVE their basketball. (The Jazz) are the only sports team in the state.

When did you finally see the light of day?
Miles: I don’t think it really turned on until my third year. And during that season I finally started to play. And that felt great.