2013-14 Season in Review: Darius Miller
Pelicans.com continues its look back at the 2013-14 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:
NBA experience: Two seasons with Pelicans
Games played/started: 45/7
A September foot injury caused Miller to miss the entire preseason and delayed the official start of his second NBA season until Dec. 4, but in some ways, it was even more damaging than that. While many of his new teammates became acclimated to each other on the court during training camp, Miller appeared to be playing catch-up all season. It wasn’t until late in the regular season that the small forward finally earned consistent playing time, logging 20-plus minutes in 12 consecutive contests. Prior to that season-closing span, his longest such stretch was only two games.
“I got off to a slow start because of the injury, but I tried to continue to work to get back to where I thought I was in the summer,” said Miller, who closed 2013 Las Vegas summer league in excellent fashion. “I was behind as far as the team goes. This was a new team. Everyone was getting a feel for each other, but I didn’t really get a chance to do that because I was injured.”
From his Dec. 4 debut vs. Dallas through late March, it was rarely a certainty that Miller would even get on the floor, with him receiving 20 DNPs over a 53-game chunk of the schedule. By far the best glimpse at the University of Kentucky product occurred in April, when he made all seven of his starts. As a first-stringer, Miller averaged 9.4 points and 2.4 assists.
After spending part of his rookie season in the D-League, Miller returned to New Orleans for the 2013-14 season in optimum physical condition, having shed weight. His improved body seemed to give him a better chance to contribute, particularly after some quality performances in July summer league, but the foot injury meant it would be five months before he got into another game.
“I didn’t really have a solid year (as a rookie),” Miller explained of his mentality entering 2013-14. “I really had a great summer and tried to put in as much work as possible. I’ve done a better job of taking care of my body, to where I can just focus on basketball and don’t have to worry about other things as far as eating. My injury was horrible timing. I had a little momentum going and felt pretty good, but the injury kind of set me back a little bit. I’m just trying to get back to where it was.”
From March 26 through the close of the regular season, Miller had five double-digit scoring games and shot 47.8 percent from the field (11-for-34 on three-pointers). Miller, a restricted free agent on July 1, said he’ll take a similar approach to this offseason.
“I feel like I can improve on a lot of things,” he said. “I’m the type of guy who works on everything, to try to become a better all-around player. I feel like I can still be more consistent. As far as the team, we had a lot of injuries. I felt like we could’ve been a really good team this year, if all of the injuries didn’t happen, but we can’t control that. I would’ve liked to have seen how good we were if everyone was healthy throughout the whole year.”
TOP THREE DARIUS MILLER GAMES OF 2013-14
#3: Jan. 11, 2014 – New Orleans at Dallas
Miller got red-hot in the fourth quarter, draining three three-pointers in the final 8:56. He went 4-for-5 on treys in the game for 12 points. His fourth made trifecta pulled the Pelicans to within 108-107 with 12 seconds left, but the Mavericks held on for a 110-107 victory.
#2: April 11, 2014 – New Orleans at Oklahoma City
Miller established career highs in points (18) and field-goal attempts (13) against the Northwest Division champion Thunder. He sank three three-pointers while adding three assists and one steal, but Oklahoma City prevailed 116-94.
#1: March 26, 2014 – L.A. Clippers at New Orleans
Kicking off a stretch in which he played significant minutes the rest of the way, Miller deposited a critical 16 points in the 98-96 upset win over the Pacific Division titlists. He canned two clutch baskets in the final 2:46, including a back-breaking jumper that put New Orleans up 97-92 with 46 seconds left.