By Rob Mahoney
Wednesday night was much like any other working occasion for Denver's Andre Miller. He ran his team's offense effectively. He collected rebounds at a rate that few point guards could muster. And he threw this beauty of an alley-oop pass to Kenneth Faried, without even getting so far as the half-court line:
The alley-oop may be a staple of contemporary basketball, but Miller -- a 36-year-old backup point guard -- is its most committed practitioner. His creativity as a playmaker can be put to use in any half- or full-court setting, but Miller is at his best when challenging the full extent of the court's vertical space.
His lobs don't linger or float, if only because the accuracy of Miller's placement and timing don't require it. Whereas other passers simply toss up the ball so that an athletic finisher might seek it out and complete the play, Miller dots his feed into a particular intersection of space and time, resulting in an utterly practical application of a highlight staple. Often, that kind of on-point feed frames Miller's own riff on the alley-oop as less spectacular than, say, Allen Iverson's lob to Andre Iguodala:
In that way, Miller's lob passes bear the signature of his complete game: grounded, precise and oddly devoid of flash. Miller thrives is in making this complicated choreography seem far easier than it is, and that kind of mastery is a direct contradiction to the doctrine of highlight-reel basketball. We marvel at players who accomplish the impossible and politely clap for those like Miller who simply lower the threshold of the alley-oop so that any finisher might know its rewards. Nevertheless, Miller does forge more conventional highlights at times by pushing his limits a bit, and by virtue of playing with so many fantastic dunkers. Both of those factors came into play with Miller's most recent masterpiece; his pass somehow found a sprinting Faried at the perfect arc and velocity from a hardwood world away, and created the opportunity for an impressive leaper to finish a transition sequence before it had even begun. It's Faried who gets the points and the YouTube fodder, but Miller's ho-hum lob perfection made it all possible. When it comes to this niche of playmaking, Miller is simply the best there is or ever was -- both by sheer quantity and the specific delights of his portfolio.