by Conrad Brunner
Indianapolis, August 27, 2002 - Reggie Miller assumed spectator status for the United States team’s Tuesday practice at the IUPUI Gymnasium, resting a sprained right ankle that could keep him out of Thursday's World Basketball Championship opener.
Coach George Karl said Miller was questionable for the game with Algeria in the RCA Dome, while the U.S. team's training staff officially listed him as "day-to-day." Miller, 37, is more willing to test his powers of recovery.
“I feel much better today than I did yesterday,” Miller said. “I want to play. To be a part of something as special as this, something that I’ve put so much work into...I want to be ready.
“Definitely, by the latest, on Friday. Working out today, it felt pretty good.”
Miller spent a majority of practice with his right ankle iced, wrapped and elevated.
The U.S. team opens against Algeria, which is making its first appearance in the World Basketball Championship. If Miller can't play in the opener, he is hoping to be back for Friday’s contest against Germany.
“The thing about Reggie is you know he’s going to do everything he can to get better,” said Antonio Davis, who once played with Miller in Indiana. “As the days go on, and you see him out shooting, you just feel better.
“I think he can tolerate the pain. He just wants to be able to play like Reggie Miller can play.”
Miller and fellow Pacer Jermaine O’Neal are the only two players on the U.S. team to have started both exhibition games. In the two games, Miller averaged 9.0 points and 1.5 rebounds in 17.0 minutes of playing time per game.
In his five previous experiences in international competition, Miller has averaged 14.0 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
Miller sprained his ankle when he landed on a defender’s foot at the 7:17 mark in the third quarter of the final exhibition game against Germany on Sunday. Miller, who had logged eight points in 12 minutes of playing time up to that point, did not return to the game. The U.S. went on to defeat the Germans 91-73.
In the only other exhibition game against China, Miller scored 10 points, five of which came in a 16-2 first quarter run that gave the U.S. a lead it wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 84-54 victory.
Time is one luxury Miller doesn’t have to allow his ankle to heal. The U.S. could play nine games in eleven days, assuming it gets to the gold-medal game.
“Asking a guy to come back in two or three days is tough,” coach George Karl said. “I’ve been very impressed with his leadership and his professionalism. He’s been one of the best players on the court every practice. He has been the leader of this group.”