Andre Miller: Still Learning

By: Lorne Chan Spurs.com

Andre Miller, a 17-year NBA veteran, became one of the newest Spurs in March when he signed with the Silver & Black. The NBA’s active leader in assists, Miller said his biggest motivation to become a Spur was the chance to learn from a team he’s admired from afar for years.

What does being a Spur mean to you?

Learning from the best is all anyone can ask for. This is the icing on the cake for me. I get to see guys with a lot of history like Tim, Tony, Manu and Pop. I get to see how these guys tick, what the preparation is, and everything that goes into being a champion. I get to see what it takes to get to that big game and that highest level.

What have you learned so far?

One thing I’ve learned in San Antonio is that if I had gotten here sooner, I might be able to play for 25 seasons. The Spurs manage their players well. They have an understanding of the type of player they look for. I’m not saying I have to come in and change who I am at 40, but I have a lot of respect for this organization and the way they run their program. I’m having fun with it.

With this organization, the teamwork is apparent. This team has been known for its unselfishness and team basketball. There are so many different cultures in this organization and so many different backgrounds, that I think it helps everything blend really well. There’s good camaraderie here. Not a lot of big egos. Just people focused on making each other’s jobs a little bit easier.

How have you been able to last 17 seasons in the NBA?

I’m not sure. I always thought about how I would maintain a level of play as an individual to earn the respect of my teammates and my team. My goal was always to try to stay healthy and be involved. Whether it’s the first guy on the team or the 14th, my goal was always to be involved and contribute in any way possible.

I’ve had some longevity in the league, so coming here is an opportunity to see how other guys have done it. I’ll never forget being in Denver and competing against Tony and all the guys who have come through the organization. Heck, I played against Tim in college.

When did you first hear someone call you “The Professor?”

I first heard that when I got to Washington in 2013-14. I wasn’t even paying attention and it just sort of stuck.  It’s a level of respect for me. Every player has a nickname, and you can be called a lot worse than “The Professor.”

In the last three or four years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe my surroundings more. I’ve been able to see how other teams do things and learn things such as what it takes to be a coach in this league, or what it takes others to get through obstacles and the grind of an NBA season.

You’ve been to the second round once in your career. What would a playoff run mean to you?

I haven’t thought about what a run might be like. I don’t think about what ifs when it comes to the playoffs. For me, if this is to be my last year, it’s about enjoying the experience of basketball. It has always been a good environment in the AT&T Center, and the team is always competitive.

How has the NBA changed since you were a rookie?

When I came in, rookies didn’t get any respect. You had to earn it and keep your mouth closed. When I reached the NBA, my concern was being prepared to step in every time my name was called. I made sure to understand how to play defense, understand the nuances of the pick-and-roll, and really think about what it takes to have a long career in the league.

The first time you were in San Antonio was the last time you played for a championship. What do you remember from that?

I was a junior at Utah, and we reached the 1998 NCAA title game. Getting to the Final Four, being young and soaking up the atmosphere, nothing will ever compare to that run. I’ve been in some high-intensity playoff series, but never anything like that.

What advice would you have given to your college self the last time you were in San Antonio?

I wouldn’t have said much. Just be prepared for obstacles and changes. In the NBA, everything is about making adjustments. You want be able to blend in and help your team as much as possible. Playing in any type of system and contributing all the time is something I’ve prided myself in.

What would advice would you give to an NBA rookie?

You can’t control the politics of basketball, and the NBA is a business. It’s on you to adjust to any circumstance.

I have a 16-year-old son. I try to teach him that nothing’s going to be given to you. You have to get an education first. If you do play basketball, you have to challenge the person in front of you, because that’s going to make both of you better and the team better.