Nuggets point guard Miller about to become Andre 1000
Vetern credits career milestone to love of game, good fortune
Since being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers on June 24, 1999, Andre Miller has been eligible to play in 1,002 regular-season NBA games.
Remarkably, he has taken the court for 999 of them.
Hardly a basketball outcast, Miller is about to become Andre 1000.
Miller will play in his 1,000th regular-season game Thursday night when he and the Denver Nuggets face the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. The venue is fitting considering Miller attended high school in Los Angeles and spent the 2002-03 season with the Clippers.
“It means something to me just because I enjoy being on the basketball court,” Miller said of his upcoming milestone. “I take pride in practicing and being on the court. I don’t like to miss games.”
Miller, who played in 134 of 134 games at the University of Utah, has missed just six games in his NBA career – and three of them were due to circumstances beyond his control.
After being traded from Denver to Philadelphia as part of the Allen Iverson deal in 2006, Miller was ineligible to play two games for the 76ers because a Colorado snowstorm delayed Iverson’s arrival in the Mile High City.
Because of the technicality, Miller’s streak of consecutive games remained intact, but it finally ended at 632 when he received a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul against Clippers forward Blake Griffin last season.
Miller voiced his displeasure with the suspension, saying he did not believe it was justified, but he quickly started another streak of consecutive games that now stands at 80.
“There’s no question that he’s an ironman of the league,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I don’t know how many guys could do what he does because he plays a lot of games when he’s beat up.”
In 13 seasons, the 35-year-old Miller has missed three games due to injury. He sat out one game with a bruised shoulder while playing for the Cavaliers during the 2001-02 season, and he missed two games due to a sprained ankle in his only season with the Clippers.
“I actually could have played in both of them (with Los Angeles),” Miller recalled. “They forced me to sit down.”
Miller’s durability and longevity can be attributed to several factors.
First off, he simply loves playing basketball. That was evident when he joined rec-league teams in Highlands Ranch and at the University of Denver during the NBA lockout last summer. And he rarely misses a practice because he wants to provide leadership for his teammates.
“In the next few years, I will start taking (days off at practice). I think I’ve earned that right to be able to take time off and rest my legs,” Miller said. “But I try to set an example for the younger guys and keep my habits where it can rub off on younger cats.”
Miller also knows how to survive the grind of an NBA season. He stays in shape during the offseason and doesn’t hesitate to visit the training room at the onset of aches and pains.
“He’s really good about taking care of his body,” Nuggets assistant athletic trainer Dan Shimensky said. “When he’s really banged up, he’ll come in and see us, whereas a lot of times, we’ll have to go find the player to bring him in for treatment.”
Along with preventative maintenance, good fortune and a tolerance for pain also help keep Miller on the court night after night.
“It’s a little bit of luck,” he said. “Some guys are injury-prone. Some guys get a few nicks and are out for a while. I tend to try to play through them. I take pride in that.”
Finally, there’s Miller’s playing style.
Watching him on the court, it sometimes appears as though he couldn’t jump over a phone book. His jump shot is somewhat of an oxymoron, and he prefers an easy lay-up to a dunk when he finds himself alone on a breakaway.
“Any time you jump, it sends huge shock waves from your ankle to your lower back,” Shimensky said. “With Andre, his game is so smooth and controlled. He’s not an above-the-rim player like some other guys. It does his body a favor by not taking that shock day in and day out.”
It should also be noted that Miller would not be preparing for his 1,000th game if he wasn’t productive.
He averaged 14.4 points and 7.2 assists in his first 12 seasons and he is 211 assists from supplanting Maurice Cheeks for 10th place on the NBA’s all-time list. Only Jason Kidd and Steve Nash have more assists than Miller among active players.
“Andre throws passes that no one else can throw,” Karl said. “I always remember watching (John) Stockton and Nash on video and you run it back and say, ‘How in the hell did he see that?’ Andre had at least two of them in the Sacramento game (on Jan. 25).”
Teammate and fellow point guard Ty Lawson described Miller as “real crafty” and marveled at his consistency through the years.
“Andre, he’s a tough guy,” Lawson said. “For him to play 1,000 games out of 1,006, that’s amazing.”
A few minutes later, Karl couldn’t resist the opportunity to trump Miller’s milestone.
“Just remember,” Karl told Miller, “I have 1,000 wins.”