Darius Miller drives between Phoenix defenders

Temporary practice restrictions making it difficult for Darius Miller to assess readiness

by Jim Eichenhofer

When Darius Miller sustained a ruptured right Achilles tendon last August, it presumably meant there was no conceivable way he’d suit up for New Orleans during the 2019-20 season. Of course, that notion was based on the NBA schedule proceeding as planned, with the 2020 NBA Finals taking place in June. Instead, COVID-19 will extend the league into October. As a result, Miller has now not ruled out the possibility of being on the court in Orlando in late July.

The problem is, like so many things currently complicated by a pandemic, the 6-foot-6 forward has not been able to accurately gauge the current status of his recovery from injury. Like every NBA team, the Pelicans are still not allowed to conduct five-on-five practices or scrimmages, eventually a key component of determining how close Miller is to competing in a real NBA game.

“It’s hard to tell because I haven’t been able to get on the court much with the virus going on,” Miller said Friday. “I’ve really been trying to strengthen my legs, getting in decent shape, as much as I can without being able to play basketball. So right now I’m just trying to push myself as much as I can on the court to see where I’m at.”
A key reserve on the ’18 Pelicans squad that swept Portland and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, Miller then averaged a career-best 8.2 points last season, starting 15 times over his 69 appearances. He re-signed with New Orleans in free agency in July ’19, inking a two-year contract that carries a team option for ’20-21. His injury took away a Pelicans perimeter threat who has shot 39 percent from three-point range over his past two full seasons.

After the NBA shut down in mid-March, Miller remained in New Orleans to continue to rehab and work out, with the extended layoff opening up the possibility that he could return for the resumption of play. Recoveries from Achilles injuries often require roughly a one-year timetable.

“I stayed in the city while all this was going on, just to be able to use as many resources as I could during this time,” Miller said, “because there could be a chance that I could come back and play. I’ve been focused on that pretty much the entire time we have been in quarantine and I’m still trying to do that to this day.”

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