No spotlight necessary for Nuggets veteran Andre Miller
Denver point guard continues to produce while flying under the radar
By a conservative estimate, 10,000 players have appeared in an NBA game since the league came into existence in 1946.
Eight of those players have scored at least 15,000 points and handed out 7,500 assists.
Five of the eight – Magic Johnson, Gary Payton, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas – are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Two others – Jason Kidd and Steve Nash – have combined to appear in 16 All-Star games and are well on their way to Hall induction.
Andre Miller, meanwhile, goes about his business with little fanfare as captain and veteran floor leader of the Denver Nuggets.
“He’s extremely underrated when you’re talking about all-time point guards,” said Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. “He does his job. He’s a battler, a competitor and a leader.”
Jackson, who ranks third on the NBA’s career assist list, spent four years playing against Miller as a player. He is now trying to disrupt Miller as the Warriors face the Nuggets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
At 37 years old, Miller was the oldest player on the court in Game 1 between Denver and Golden State. He also was the best player on the court, scoring 28 points and converting the winning layup in the final seconds to help the Nuggets hold off the Warriors.
After adding another 18 points in Game 2, Miller leads the team in scoring as the series moves to Oakland, Calif., with the Nuggets and Warriors tied at one game apiece.
Making his ninth career playoff appearance, Miller is trying to advance out of the first round for the first time. While motivated to have postseason success, he does not think it will change his status as an underappreciated playmaker.
“Probably not,” he says in his usual matter-of-fact manner. “Too many stars in this league.”
Not that it bothers him.
“I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do as far as my career’s concerned,” he said. “I played another full 82 games (in 2012-13). I’ve been committed to the organizations that I’ve played for and I’ve never taken time off.”
Miller’s durability remains one of his most impressive attributes. He has played in 1,126 of a possible 1,132 games – missing only four due to injury.
“Andre works on his game every day,” teammate Corey Brewer said. “He plays hard every day. Even when Coach says, ‘You don’t have to practice,’ he still practices. And he gets better and better.”
With an array of hesitation moves and low-post pump fakes, Miller has a game that is quintessentially old school. It also can be extremely difficult to defend.
As Miller worked the clock under 10 seconds in in Game 1, he found himself in a 1-on-1 situation with Draymond Green, 23-year-old a rookie. The veteran blew past Green as though their ages were reversed.
While some people shook their heads in disbelief, the Nuggets simply celebrated with their captain.
“I’m never surprised by Andre Miller,” Brewer said. “I say he’s unguardable. They always talk about these guys like Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James). If you give Andre Miller the ball, he’s one of the toughest guys to guard in the NBA.”
Though willing to take the big shot, Miller remains a playmaker who is a master at finding guys on backdoor cuts and setting up big men Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee with long-distance lob passes.
“He’s one of the greatest passers in our game,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “He’s not a flashy guy. He’s an old-school guy. He’s not beneath the rim, he’s beneath the net. He plays the game just on grit and cleverness.”
With two years left on his contract, Miller says he feels good physically and that his younger teammates “keep me energized.” He needs 32 assists to pass Rod Strickland (7,987) for ninth on the career list and 44 to reach 8,000 for his career.
Thomas (9,061) and Payton (8,966) also are within reach if Miller wants to play beyond 2014-15.
“Anything positive that can affect my team is beneficial,” Miller said. “I’m just going to continue to go until my body tells me it’s not time to play anymore.”