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Miles to Go Before He Sleeps

C.J.'s a 10-Year Vet, But Still Eager to Improve
by Mark Montieth Writer

Being a team's offseason MVP doesn't mean much, unless it translates into something that does when the real games begin. That's been C.J. Miles' goal throughout the grind of summer workouts on a nearly vacant Bankers Life Fieldhouse practice court.

Miles seems to have turned in the most active off-season of all the Pacers, although George Hill and Shayne Whittington have been close behind and it's impossible to track the movements of the players who were not in Indianapolis. Time will tell. Miles, for one, didn't just work on the fundamental tasks of ballhandling and shooting, he incorporated Pilates and yoga into his training.

The end result: he's 15 pounds lighter, significantly stronger and more flexible.

"Just being a pro," he said.

Miles only took a couple of breaks from his routine. He went home to Dallas for a couple of weeks early in the summer to attend his sister's graduation from law school and spend time with his family, and he and his fiance took a brief three-day vacation in July. (The wedding date is Aug. 20 of next year.) Otherwise, he was in Bankers Life Fieldhouse five days most weeks, working on his body and his skills.

It wasn't group activity. George Hill, whose summer workouts a year ago were the prelude to his best season in the NBA, was there much of the time, as was Shayne Whittington. The other players tended to their preparations in their home towns, which is the norm around the NBA.

Miles appears to have gone beyond the norm. Coach Frank Vogel says he "worked harder than anybody" over the summer, and Miles feels the payoff.

"Everything works," he says.

"Right now my body feels better than at any point last season, even when I was playing my best late in the season."

Late last season, Miles reached the peak of his 10-season NBA career. Over the small sample size of the final four games, in fact, he was the player he dreamed of becoming when he was part of the final NBA draft class to enter the league directly out of high school. He averaged 18.8 points on 49 percent shooting, including 48 percent from the 3-point line, along with 6.3 rebounds.

That was the other end of the spectrum from the start of the season when, impaired by migraines and strains, he suffered through a personal drought. Through the first 17 games, he missed seven and averaged just 6.7 points on 24 percent shooting in the other 10.

It all added up to his best NBA season, with career highs of 13.5 points in 26.3 minutes. That was one source of inspiration. So is the fact that, despite a decade of experience, he's just 28 years old, with time still to improve. And so is the plan to incorporate a faster-paced offense that will be "as good as it gets for me."

Miles moved from his downtown apartment into a rented home in the Meridian Hills area with his fiancée and two dogs, and settled in.

"I felt being able to do some of the things I did last year, with nagging injuries and things that caused me to not be able to practice that much, if I can get that stuff under control and be in even better shape, how much better could I really be?

"And I had the tools to do it. Our training staff is as good as anybody in our league, and our strength and conditioning staff is as good as anybody in our league. We had a specific plan and we met the goal. I chased it. I just locked my self in the gym."

Shooting has been the foundation of Miles' career. He's hit 37 percent of his 3-pointers over the past three seasons, since leaving Utah, but plans to improve there, too. His shooting ritual, dubbed the "Pacers 100," consisted of shooting 100 3-pointers from various points around the arc. He peaked at 85. He was hoping to do better, but teammates started drifting into the Fieldhouse and it became impossible to take up court space and time for individual workouts.

"I haven't had a chance to do it for a couple of weeks," he said. "I was trying to get to 90 before (training camp), but we started playing pickup games."

Training camp and pre-season games will manufacture a starting lineup, but the best early guess appears to be Hill, Monta Ellis, Miles, Paul George and one of the centers, probably veteran Ian Mahinmi. Miles wouldn't mind that at all, figuring it would enable him to flourish and reap the benefits of his summer investment.

"I don't get paid to make those decisions," he said. "I say it all the time, whatever they ask me to do, whatever fits, is fine with me. But I hear it, too. It's hard not to think about it. That lineup would definitely be fun to watch and fun to play with. There's a lot of space and definitely a lot of points.

"We have to figure out what suits us best. But we definitely have a lot of firepower."

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