Miller on Decision to Nix Comeback: ’It’s Tough at Times’
Posted Nov 28 2007 9:17AM
SECAUCUS, NJ, Nov. 28, 2007 -- If you looked at this season's NBA schedule in August and saw that the Knicks were playing the Celtics in late November, you would have thought that you'd get the chance to see Reggie Miller and Spike Lee refresh their repartee on the basketball court. Well, that dream is not to be as Miller decided to remain in the broadcast booth with TNT and Spike Lee went ahead and scheduled a movie shoot in Europe for the fall.
I caught up with Miller to discuss Thursday's Knicks-Celtics game in Boston (8 p.m. ET, TNT) and get the former great's thoughts on both teams, their off-season moves and his decision to stay retired.
Dave: First question, are the Celtics as good as their record suggests?
Reggie: Yes. They’re as good as advertised. Between Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and KG; all three guys got a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. They’re excited. They understand this may be their best opportunity to win a championship and for the betterment of the good, they’ve put everything aside and said, “As a team, let’s go out and do it.”
Dave: On the other side, are the Knicks as bad as their record?
Reggie: No. I just think, coming into the season with everything that swirled with the sexual harassment suit, you look at their roster from top to bottom and you’re amazed that their record is as such. I think when you have a Zach Randolph, a Curry, Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson … and then you have guys coming off the bench like Lee and Balkman who do a lot of the dirty work, Jared Jeffries who is a very versatile forward … I’m shocked that their record is as bad as it is.
They should be able to, especially in the East, compete on a nightly basis better than they’re doing now.
Dave: You told TV Guide on October 30th ...
Reggie: Yes! [The Knicks] were my sleeper! Well, I also had Chicago winning the East too …
Dave: So did I. I think a lot of people had Chicago …
Reggie: Right! So, I just thought with Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry down low, considering that last year the Knicks were one of the better rebounding teams, now you add Zach Randolph who is a 20-10 guy, I felt that if they could punish teams with their inside play.
I thought that would be a big plus because they’re one of the bigger teams for the Eastern Conference teams. It’s almost like their built for the Western Conference because they’re so big. They’re a big Eastern Conference team. That’s why I’m a little shocked that they’ve gotten off to such a slow start. Obviously, Zach has missed a few games because of a death in the family … the whole Stephon Marbury/Isiah Thomas thing has been a distraction for the team … but, I’m a little shocked.
Dave: What do the Knicks do to start to turn things around? What does Isiah Thomas do as a coach? What do the players do? What’s the next step for them?
Reggie: If I was Isiah, I would force feed Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph. I would try to get a steady diet of those two guys. Crawford has been playing very consistently for them. They’ve been doing a lot of half court, I would try to open it up a little bit and get a little bit more easy points in the open court in transition. But, I would try to punish teams down low.
Dave: Offensively that will be their game plan, but what about defensively? Can you talk about on Thursday, what can the Knicks do to guard the Celtics?
Reggie: That’s a good question. I think everyone would kind of like to know the answer to that one when you have a three-headed monster like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But out of those three guys, the one main guy that’s a tough cover is Paul Pierce. It looks like Doc is really trying to initiate getting him going early, because once he gets going early, because of the new-look Celtics he has become so unselfish and when he gets it going and teams come to double and triple team him, that’s when he’s finding Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. So, if Isiah can find a way to try to neutralize Paul Pierce early, because if the game is on the line, and I’ve looked at all their games, everyone wondered, “Where’s the ball going to go if the game is on the line for the Celtics?” It’s easy, and Doc has made it clear: “Paul Pierce is our guy.”
Dave: Staying on Pierce, is that a guy who you admire? He’s been there his whole career, this is his 10th season, you spent your whole 18-year career in Indiana … A guy like that, a true franchise player, is that somebody who you respect?
Reggie: I love guys who have roots. Paul Pierce has roots embedded in Boston. The last few years there’s been a few trade rumors about him and I’m glad the Celtics never pulled the trigger on any of them because, when surrounded by talent, you’re seeing how good he absolutely can be.
Dave: Another guy on the Celtics who I want to get your opinion on is Ray Allen. You have the record for most 3-pointers made, you know, he’s about 500 behind you. What can you say as one shooter talking about another shooter?
Reggie: I think he’s a much better shooter than I will ever be. And I really do believe he is going to break that record. All he has to do is stay healthy. He is much better off the dribble that I was. I may have been a better catch-and-shoot, coming off screens but he is definitely better handling the basketball, using screens and pulling up. And his shot is effortless. In this system too, because you’re going to get double teams down low with Kevin and you’re going to get double teams on the wings with Pierce, what better guy to be the benefactor than a Ray Allen?
Dave: Certainly. Or, what better guy to be the benefactor than a Reggie Miller? Which almost happened this summer …
Dave: (Laughing) I got to ask you about it. Is it something that’s lingering? Not even lingering back and forth, but is it something where you look back at this summer and you’re like, “Hey, I was almost one of those guys out there on the first-place Celtics…”
Reggie: Yeah, it’s tough at times because you feel like you could have contributed and you could have helped, but I had to make a decision one way or the other. It was either coming back and fully staying with it or doing what I’m doing right now, which I’m loving, and being secure with it.
The big reason why I did want to do it was I wanted to play with KG first and foremost. He was the one player, if I was going to come back, I wanted to play with him. Having worked out with him, because he lives up near me in Malibu, having worked out with him the last five or six years, I know his level of commitment and I know what he can bring and I knew he was going to be so excited to be in a new situation where he has a chance to win a championship. And if he’s going to give 120 percent in Minnesota, and they’ve been dog horrible the last few years, can you imagine if he’s surrounded by talent and one the biggest stage? One of the biggest stages -- when you’re talking about iconic organizations, you’re talking about the Lakers, the Knicks, Boston, Chicago a little bit … but Boston, does it get any bigger of a stage than the Boston Celtics?
Dave: What about KG’s intensity? It’s something that I don’t think you see in many players. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Reggie: Not only is the intensity so high, but it becomes infectious. It trickles down to your 11th and 12th man. Everyone when they step out on that court, they understand that they have to raise their level of game. That’s what true champions and that’s what superstars are all about; being able to raise the level of everyone around you, and Kevin is that kind of guy.
Dave: Both of these teams are in the Atlantic Division, so what’s your take on the reigning division champs in Toronto and the rest of the division?
Reggie: I really thought Toronto was going to be much better than they are. I think the loss of Jorge Garbajosa, possibly, to ankle surgery is probably affecting them. I thought they picked up some great players in going out and getting Kapono and Delfino. They found a gem in Jamario Moon. So, athletically, I think they’re probably the most athletic team in the Atlantic. I think the injuries really hurt New Jersey. Vince Carter going down hurt them, but then he came back and they got a big win against the Lakers in L.A. I really thought it was going to come down to Boston and Toronto for the division, but it only seems like a one-horse race right now with Boston running away with it. But, the Knicks aren’t out of it yet. Like I said, the Knicks are a big team and they have a lot of talent, they just have to start using it and harnessing that talent.
Dave: You think Spike Lee will make a special road trip up to Boston?
Reggie: Noooo! First of all, Spike is in Italy shooting a movie. I’ve been e-mailing him back and forth saying, “Look, your team is in dire straits right now and how funny is it that their No. 1 cheerleader is nowhere to be found?” I was like, “That would be like if the Lakers were really bad right now and Jack Nicholson abandoned his team.” I’m serious! I was like, “Look, Jack films movies during the basketball season too, but if something goes wrong, I guarantee you he’s in the front row in his seat. Now what do you think people are saying right now that Spike Lee is gone?”
Dave: He’s bailing on them.
Reggie: He’s bailing on his team! That’s exactly what it looks like. Now, he says that’s not the case, but I’m going by just like you said, it looks like he’s bailing on his team. Now, if they start winning and he comes back – because he’s supposed to be back in the middle of December – if they start to win and he comes back it starts to look like …
Reggie: Bandwagon! “Hey, I’m bandwagon! I’m jumping on my team!”
Dave: Now, there’s a little speculation as to Isiah Thomas’ job security and one name that’s floated out there is Chris Mullin, a former teammate of yours, should that ever happen or should he ever get into coaching period, what kind of qualities does he have that would lead to him being a successful coach?
Dave: Just putting the Celtics in perspective … We have them as our No. 1 team in the Power Rankings right now, but they haven’t really played all the Western Conference teams. What do they have to do to be considered to be in the same class as your San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas and those types of teams?
Reggie: I’ll tell you what, they will jump leaps and bounds whenever they do their Texas Triangle trip (Editor's note: the Celtics play the Spurs, Rockets and Mavs in that order in a span of four days March 17-20) … but if they can win two out of three against the Texas teams, which is a tall order, that’s going to go a long way. The Texas Triangle is tough. If they can win two out of three against Houston, San Antonio or Dallas … Utah is going to be a good game for them … Denver is going to be a good game for them … They’ve got to be successful against West coast teams just for the simple fact that if they do win the East, that’s going to give them so much confidence going into The Finals. But, if they’re like a lot of these other East Coast teams that just get their head beat in when they go out West …
But you know, it’s funny, there are a lot of bad teams out in the West this year too. Seattle, Memphis, Minnesota, Sacramento … there’s a chance for them to get healthy when they go out West too. I know Portland is without Oden, but they play really hard. Nate McMillan has that team playing really hard.
Dave: Between now and Thursday, what does the broadcast team do?
Reggie: Thursday morning we’ll have a breakfast meeting. We’ll go over all the story lines. Coach Fratello will take one team, I’ll take another team and Marv will obviously give his expertise. Our producer and our director will chime in and we’ll probably have an hour and a half breakfast meeting. Then everyone goes back to their rooms and preps for the games and makes phone calls and things like that and get ready for the game.
The game will tell the story for itself. It’s not like we come in and we have our own agenda, like, “This is what we’re going to say,” because the game is going to tell its own story. Now obviously, there are packages and there are ideas that we would like to get out there between the two teams, but hey, the game is going to tell a story in itself. All we do is try to make it as easy and understandable for the viewing audience.
Dave: Before we go, I got to give you credit. I mentioned the TV Guide interview where you talked about the Knicks, but you also said that New Orleans was your sleeper team out of the West …
Reggie: (Laughing) Thank you! OK! I’m one for three, baby!
Dave: So, you’re earning your money somehow (Laughing)
Reggie: (Laughing) There we go! Whew. I knew I would be getting calls from the brass at Turner saying, “What the hell is Reggie talking about?”