Midway through Saturday’s contest in Los Angeles, Kings Head Coach George Karl turned to his team during a timeout and looked straight at Andre Miller. He asked the veteran guard, who was acquired last Thursday in a trade with Washington, what he wanted to run.
For the third time in their respective and storied careers, Miller and Coach Karl are reunited. The two know each other so well and have developed such a tightknit bond over the years that both are confident in the other’s abilities.
“I think he (Karl) has a certain level of comfort with me and has confidence in me running the team and kind of being an extension of him on the court,” Andre Miller admitted to the media after his first game as a member of the Kings. “So that gives me a little bit of an advantage and more opportunities to be on the court and get away with some things.”
Although he’s still learning the nuances of Sacramento’s system and the calls on each end, No. 22 has been able to direct the offense and create an element of surprise thanks to his prior experiences.
“My role is just to come in, fit in and help the guys understand what George is trying to accomplish,” Miller said after practice this week. “For me, a lot of people think because of my age that I’m on my last leg, but I have an opportunity here to prove some people wrong.”
Although they weren’t on the same team until 2004 when Karl became the Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets, their bond traces back to the mid-90s.
“I’ve known George since I was 18-years-old and he knows what I’ve been through,” acknowledged Miller. “I have a lot of respect for him. From the day I stepped on a college campus, he’s always been around.”
The admiration is mutual.
“He’s one of the few players in the league who makes players better and has for 15, 20 years,” Karl told the media when the trade was announced. “I think he’s a Hall of Fame player. I know people think I’m crazy, but I think he’s a top-five passer, all time.”
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Miller currently ranks ninth all-time in NBA career assists averaging 6.7 assists per year over the 16 years he’s been in the League. He’s also specialized in scoring in the lane whether that’s with a drive past an opponent, a slash without the ball, posting up to the basket or connecting on a step-back, turn-around jumper.
“The easy part (about this offense) is just getting up and down the court and knowing that (Coach Karl) just wants you to play basketball,” Miller said.
On shots taken within the key, the savvy vet is shooting 60.7 percent from the field.
“My goal has always been to play 15-plus years or to the age of 40,” the Kings new point guard said. “So I’m past 15 years and I’m a year from 40. I’m going to continue to play, and the goal is to play next year, so we’ll see how that works out.”
The 38-year-old has only missed three games to injury in his career making him one of the most durable players to ever suit up.
- Thursday’s deal with the Wizards marks the second straight year the Miller has been traded at the deadline. He arrived in Washington last February.
- Behind John Wall and Bradley Beal, Miller was averaging 10.4 points and 8.2 assists per 36 minutes before jumping to Sacramento, although he logged a career-low 12.4 minutes per game in 51 contests.
- Miller is a month shy of turning 39.
- His nickname is ‘The Professor’ due to his high basketball-IQ and his savvy play on the court.
- Through the first 13 years in the League, the University of Utah alum averaged double-digit scoring figures.
- No. 22 has been to the playoffs ten times, including once in each of the last seven years.
Thursday’s swap with Washington brought Miller to a place he is very familiar with. Since he was in third grade, the Los Angeles native has visited his two aunts, an uncle and cousins in the surrounding Sacramento area.
“I’m coming to a city that I’m familiar with and I’m coming to a team that I’ve been following for some time,” Miller admitted.
“My friends and I always talked about (playing here), but we didn’t really think it would happen. At this point in my career, it’s probably a good thing, so I’m going to take it in stride.”
Miller’s game style and preparation, paired with his familiarity with Karl’s system made last week’s trade all the more appealing for the purple and black’s new coach.
“It was kind of a no-brainer trade for me,” Karl admitted to the media. “This team has a passing inadequacy at times and you’re putting a Hall of Fame passer on the court. That can help everybody.”
Miller the Mentor
In three games with the Kings, the point guard has logged 23, 22 and 26 minutes against the Celtics, Clippers and Grizzlies, respectively. But it’s the time off the court − in practice, in the film room and on the bench − which will pay dividends for the younger players on the team as they pick his brain.
“I’ve just told them, ‘George is going to preach running,’” admitted Miller when asked about his role as a mentor. “The harder you run, the easier it’s going to be to get easy baskets for the wings.
With so much youth in the backcourt, Miller’s acquisition provides stability and mentorship to second-year backup point guard, Ray McCallum.
“For Ray, he has to have that attacker’s mentality − him and Darren already have that but they have to be doing it even more,” Miller added.
The veteran guard has also seen glimpses of potential from newly-signed David Stockton from the Reno Bighorns.
“He’s a smart player − he already has the knowledge (to play this game),” No. 22 confessed. “It’s genetics and it comes easy to him. At the same time, everyone is looking at him as a small guy, so that’s something he has to deal with.”
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Both Stockton and McCallum couldn’t have asked for a better mentor as they partake in a new era of Kings basketball under Coach Karl.
“It’s not necessarily fast-break basketball,” Karl told the media last Friday. “It’s more pace and energy basketball, smart-decision basketball, good-shot basketball, and Andre is an expert on all of that.”
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