Same as he ever was, Miller the key for Trail Blazers in playoffs
It's seems a little weird to say, but as goes
Here he is after practice before Game 3 against Phoenix, the last Blazer on the floor, shooting flat-footed jumpers from various spots around the key, each released with the same stunted push release and all the grace of your dad playing Around the World in the backyard. This compared to
This is classic Miller: practicing boring shots, which in his case are game shots, which also happen to be effective shots.
At 34 years old, Miller may strike you as old school when he plays, but then he's always been old school, even when he should have been new. The first time I met Miller was in 2002, when he was a 26-year-old point guard for the Cavs averaging 16 points and 10 assists per game. His game then wasn't much different than it is today: all angles and straight lines, crafty post moves and decisions made from the ground, not the air. Even back then, he rarely dunked -- though he could and still can (for emphatic proof, check
Miller made an impression because, especially relative to the distorted world of the pro athlete, he was remarkably grounded. He drove a small, salt-stained GMC Envoy SUV -- the model year of which he couldn't remember -- that had a Tweety-Bird air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror. His preferred fashion was sweat pants and an old University of Utah team jacket, and his nickname, "Young Richard," was not exactly the stuff of marketing campaigns. It derived from Miller's uncanny resemblance to a certain bushy-haired '70s comedian, a likeness all his teammates, even Lithuanian-born center
Miller's straight-line personality was in part the product of good parenting. Near the end of Andre's first high school varsity practice, during his sophomore year at Verbum Dei in South Central L.A., his mother marched in and informed the coach that her son had to leave
Considering all this, it shouldn't have surprised fans in Portland (and Denver, and Philadelphia) that Miller isn't a vocal, showy point guard. Some have criticized him for being stoic. Here in Portland, there was concern about his attitude, and how he'd mesh with Roy. And the latter might be a legitimate critique.
Miller is not one to adapt his game -- how he plays is how he plays. Unlike other aging players like
Still, for the Blazers to win this series against Phoenix, they're going to need to adapt, as will Miller, at least to a degree. In Game 1, he killed the Suns by driving and dishing or finishing, consistently beating
So how can Portland counter? After practice on Wednesday,
Translation: Expect to see Miller more aggressive coming to the ball -- he met alone with McMillan for 10 minutes in his office on Wednesday -- better screens and, perhaps, a more energized Fernandez, who, despite being covered by the 6-3
But don't expect to see a different Miller, for there are few more static players or personalities in the league. After all, his hair is a little patchier, and there's a speck of gray in the goatee, but he looks much the same as he did when he came into the league. He still gets called "Young Richard" -- "mostly by old teammates, like the guys from the Clippers, and sometimes from fans," he said. Sure, he has upgraded from that Envoy -- "Man, that was a good truck," he said wistfully -- but the Range Rover he now owns is the only car he drives.
He is a simple man playing a complicated game. And also, at least for the time being, the steward of these Portland Trail Blazers.