Final Report Card: Reggie Miller

by Conrad Brunner

May 29, 2003

By the Numbers: Averaged 30.2 minutes, 12.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 70 games, all starts, shooting .441 from the field, .355 from the 3-point line and .900 from the free-throw line (tied for fourth in the NBA). … Moved into 15th place on the NBA career scoring list, finishing the season with 23,505 points (252 behind No. 14 Charles Barkley). … Assist-turnover ratio of 2.58 was the second-best on the team and, with enough assists to qualify, would’ve ranked in the league’s top 25. … Made at least 100 3-pointers for the 14th consecutive season. … The NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made, he raised his career total to 2,330. The next active player on the list is No. 3 Glen Rice, who trails by 776 (1,554). … Ranks 11th in NBA history in minutes played (43,260). … Season took a downward turn in the final two months. Was averaging 14.0 points and shooting .380 from the arc at the end of February, but averaged 9.8 points and shot .276 from the arc thereafter.

Playoffs: One of the most prolific clutch playoff scorers ever was unable to get untracked against Boston, averaging 9.2 points and shooting just .283 overall (15 of 53) and .160 from the arc (4 of 25). Prior to this year, his lowest scoring average in 12 postseasons was 19.9 in 1997-98.

Plus-Minus: Ranked fourth on the team during the regular season at plus 209 (plus 3.0 per game). Ranked seventh during the postseason at minus 17 (minus 2.8 per game).

Contract Status: Free agent.

Quote: “Basically, Reggie Miller is our franchise player and I’ve told him we want to sign him and would like him back. I think Reggie’s season probably had a lot to do with his ankle. If you know Reggie, he doesn’t talk about those things. We feel like his operation has gone well and basically I think it will help him for next year. That’s our hope.” – Donnie Walsh

Analysis: His 16th season was derailed before it ever began, by an ankle injury suffered in an exhibition warmup for the World Basketball Championship. In retrospect, he acknowledged trying to return to quickly to aid the U.S. efforts and wound up missing all of the preseason and the first 12 regular-season games. His ankle, which required minor surgery after the season, was never completely right and it showed in his overall statistics, which were the lowest since his rookie season of 1987-88. His 3-point shot even deserted him in the final two months of the season and he finished with a percentage of .355, matching the lowest of his storied career. Half his field-goal attempts were 3-pointers, the highest such percentage of his career. At his best at the arc and in transition. Defense, which has been better than advertised for the balance of his career, slipped noticeably as the bum ankle restricted his lateral mobility and first-step quickness. He shouldn't be penalized for playing with pain, however; in fact, his example was, as usual, a shining one for the team's younger players. Despite the lingering injury, he remained the first player to show up and the last to leave, rarely sat out practice and never complained. If there has been a greater example of professionalism in the franchise's history, no other name comes to mind.

Crystal Ball: After successful surgery addressed the wear and tear in his ankle, along with an offseason without the physical and mental stress of international competition, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect improvement next season. Though he’ll never be a 20-point scorer again over the balance of a season, he remains one of the few perimeter players in the game who alter the way opponents play defense. Though it is impossible to envision him in any other uniform, the realities of free agency must be acknowledged. To re-sign with the Pacers, it seems certain he’ll have to accept a substantial pay cut (from a reported $12 million last season), and that’s never an easy move for a proud player to make.

Final Grade: B-minus.