Mike Miller's focus is right where it needs to be
NEW YORK - The last 36 hours have been a bit of a whirlwind for the Knicks, a team that's already suffered its fair share of whiplash this season.
After Knicks branding consultant Steve Stoute went on ESPN's First Take yesterday and all but gave the coaching staff its walking papers, New York's PR Department felt the need to put out a clarification that Stoute doesn't speak for the team, including with it a backtrack of sorts from Stoute himself.
All in all, it left the franchise with another stubbed toe gained from trying to run without first learning to walk - the latest example of misappropriated priorities for an organization that has specialized in such things for two decades now.
So the anticipation was palpable as Mike Miller addressed the media before Wednesday night's Wizards game knowing full well that there would be 17 different versions of the same question hurled his way: what did he make of Stoute's comments, and how would it effect him and his staff?
No one should be surprised with the answer.
"I'm as ease" is a line that took on special meaning tonight, but really, could have been uttered at any point since Mike Miller took over this job. That he became the head man under near impossible circumstances and thus far has a 13-19 record to show for it, seemingly without breaking a sweat, makes it all the more impressive.
"I'm locked into doing what we do here," Miller said ironically, showing that at least someone's priorities are in the right place. "We're getting ready for Washington. My job right now is to get this team ready to play. The focus in on these players."
In regards to Stoute, Miller noted that the two did see each other last night at a Knicks charity event, and that they had a brief, private conversation. He wouldn't divulge any more than that, but it's safe to say that his concern over the matter was dead and buried after they spoke, if it ever had a pulse to begin with.
As for the team itself, Miller was very clear about what the goal is for the remainder of the season: win as many games as possible.
When asked about how he'd like to use the remaining time he has to further grow the young players, he again echoed sentiments we've heard before, which is that winning and development go hand in hand. His starting lineup, which once again features RJ Barrett as the only Knick starter on a rookie contract, speaks to that effect.
And really, who can argue with the results. With a 6-6 record and a top-five defense over their last dozen games, there's little argument that this is the best basketball the team has played all season.
When I asked Miller about his defense, he noted how proud he was of the fact that they've been able to stay in games in a number of ways - often with the score under 100 of late, but also in more of a track meet when necessary.
There's no mistaking it when he speaks: he takes an immense amount of pride in what he and the staff have been able to do with this group, specifically mentioning Mitchell Robinson as a player that has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year.
Will he get the chance to continue that journey with Mitch and whoever else is back after the new front office takes hold?
Time will tell. But one thing is for sure: Miller has earned more than close look, regardless of who is making the decisions (or whispering in the ear of those who do).