Veteran point guard Miller takes new approach to preseason

Denver Nuggets floor leader limiting appearances in order to be ready on opening night
by Aaron Lopez

Andre Miller is a man of all seasons.

Preseason, regular season, postseason.

Even during the offseason, if there’s a pickup game of interest, the Denver Nuggets point guard doesn’t want to miss it.

For those unfamiliar with Miller’s track record, he has played in 1,044 of a possible 1,050 games in 13 NBA seasons. But for the first time in his career, he is sitting out preseason games to ensure he is fresh when the Nuggets open the regular season Oct. 31 in Philadelphia.

“The main thing is making it to the first game healthy,” Miller said Thursday. “I’m getting my conditioning just like everybody else in practice.”

Miller, 36, did not play in Denver’s preseason opener last weekend and is not expected to play Friday night when the Nuggets face the Spurs in San Antonio. He played through a separated shoulder near the end of 2011-12 and wants to ensure that he is 100 percent on Halloween night.

“I just want to make sure I don’t take any extra bangs and bumps,” he said. “I don’t want to go out in a preseason game and hurt myself and miss out on the start of the season.”

Miller said Nuggets coach George Karl approached him early in training camp and gave him the option of skipping some games. Miller says he will probably play “three or four” of Denver’s final five preseason games.

Karl also plans to give starting point guard Ty Lawson and veteran swingman Andre Iguodala at least one game of rest leading up to the season-opener.

Both will play against San Antonio as the Nuggets try to make some progress at the offensive end of the floor. Denver scored 106 points in its first preseason game but committed 26 turnovers.

“Offensively in the scrimmage (Wednesday night) and the last couple days, we’ve been flowing and making better decisions,” Karl said. “I’d like to see our veteran guys who are going to play the majority of our minutes get more responsible.”

Gallinari did not play in Denver’s scrimmage at Gateway High School on Wednesday but returned to practice Thursday and is expected to play against San Antonio.

Karl would like to see how Iguodala and Gallinari play together on the wing. Rookie guard Evan Fournier and second-year forward Jordan Hamilton also are expected to see significant playing time.

“Who plays with who is very important,” Karl said. “There’s an excitement about Iguodala and Gallo being together. In a quiet way, Fournier has given us another ball handler and playmaker at the two and three position.”

As for the big men, minutes are up for grabs between 7-footers Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov. Karl said Koufos consistently has been one of Denver’s best players in training camp.

“The perfect scenario would be JaVale would get in the high 20s (for minutes) and Kosta and Timo would be in the low 20s, but I’m not going to predict anything,” Karl said. “I’m going to coach to win games.

“The game will dictate who’s playing well and who will finish. Right now, they’re fairly equal. They all do different things in different ways. Kosta makes the team fit. There’s a glue there. JaVale has unbelievable athleticism, and Timo has more of a fundamental presence in the paint.”