By John Clayton
Indianapolis, March 19, 2004
Brad Miller didn’t need a room at the team hotel. Or a roadmap to find his way around.
Miller, the former Pacers All-Star center now with the Sacramento Kings, stayed at his Indianapolis-area home and did a little real estate shopping while here, proving that home isn’t necessarily where your next NBA contract is.
“I’m looking at about 600 acres of woods and swamp and trash. It’s heaven,” said Miller, a Kendallville, IN, native who played at Purdue and spent 1 1/2 seasons with the Pacers. “I can fish, hunt, and live.”
His Kings faced the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse for the first time since Miller was part of a three-team trade that landed him in Sacramento this past offseason. Miller scored 12 points, dished out five assists and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 94-92 last-second victory by the Kings.
“This time it feels a little different, I think, going into the visitors locker room,” he said. “Before, I hadn’t played here and I didn’t really think about it. It was a year-and-a-half and I was ready to stay, so it makes it weird. But it’s still my favorite arena to play in, so I look forward to that.”
Miller has adjusted well to his fourth NBA team as well as the Kings’ wide-open style of play. He was named to his second straight All-Star team and helped the Kings to the best record in the Western Conference during the absence of Chris Webber due to a knee injury that kept Webber out through the All-Star break.
“It worked out well. I don’t know how you can really say better,” Miller said. “It’s a totally different style and pace – the style of the game is just a lot different. Things begin to look a lot different in the box scores. It’s been a good fit for not knowing anybody on the team. I’m having a good time figuring it out.”
With Webber’s return, Miller gave up his starting role willingly in favor of long-time Kings veteran Vlade Divac. There were no Iverson-esque rants about an All-Star coming off the bench from Miller.
“I don’t give a crap,” Miller said. “I can get fired up in about two seconds starting and give them a spark coming off the bench. I get a couple of less minutes a game, so that’s good.
“I didn’t start in high school. The coach started a 6-2 center – started him until he was late for a meeting and then I started the rest of (my junior) season.”
Though Miller has relocated his game to Sacramento, his heart hasn’t strayed far from rural Indiana, as evidenced by his intent to purchase a large chunk of land for life after basketball. He has also kept a keen interest in the Pacers.
“They’ve got a good team, building up with a lot of young guys who are just starting to get better,” he said “There’s Reggie Miller, whose kind of the elder statesman, but everybody else is on their way up to the prime of their basketball careers.”
As is Miller, an admitted late-bloomer who came from nowhere and back through Indiana on his way to NBA stardom.
Bender Doubtful for Grizzlies
A shoulder injury suffered by Jonathan Bender in the second quarter of the Pacers’ loss to Sacramento Friday night has left the versatile forward doubtful for tonight’s game at Memphis.
Bender said he injured his right shoulder when he ran into a pick set by Kings guard Doug Christie. X-rays were taken and the injury was diagnosed as a sprain.
“I’ve got to get some treatment on it and see how it feels,” said Bender, who was moving gingerly in the Pacers’ locker room after the game. “Hopefully, it’ll feel a lot better than it does right now.”
Before the injury, Bender put together one of his best performances of the season, scoring 15 points on 6 of 6 shooting in only nine minutes of play in the first half. He returned to play seven more minutes in the second half, but was largely ineffective on offense.
Bender missed the first few months of the season while recovering from preseason knee surgery and has only been back in Coach Rick Carlisle’s regular rotation since the All-Star break. Even so, Bender was confident of his ability to come back quickly.
“I’m going to bounce right back,” he said.