Game Notes: Kings at Blazers
Andre Miller talks a good game.
Andre Miller sat on the baseline jammed between two cameramen and a horde of towel boys as his teammates glided around the Rose Garden hardwood.
Moments later he rose to a squatting position and began calling out switches on defense. It became a familiar scene for much of the time Miller wasn’t running the break with poise and flare for the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.
“I think I get involved from right there – talk about defense and get guys involved from there,” Miller said after the Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings, 98-86, in their first preseason game.
And here we thought Miller wasn’t talkative off the floor.
For the past few days in the local media and a Blazer-centric blogosphere, Miller has been depicted as a loner and antisocial. He doesn’t discuss his private life or his family. His typical daily regiment involves heading to the practice facility and then home, a routine devoid of really getting to know your new teammates on a squad that resembles a band of brothers instead of lone wolves. But as Andre puts it, “this is a professional environment.”
Right now, Miller is as strictly business as EPMD.
Against the Kings, Andre showed exactly why he’s the savvy veteran point guard the Blazer faithful fawned over when Portland inked him as a free agent this past summer.
He sat guys up with ease. He overpowered Beno Udrih and Sergio Rodriguez on the block. He laughed. He smiled. He barked at the refs. He gave pounds to Greg Oden and Brandon Roy. He even leaned into Sacramento’s huddle at one point as the Kings were game planning after a time out. And he wasn’t shy about styling and profiling; a cross over here, a show and go there. On a night were he was welcomed by a nice ovation, Miller finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and was 6-7 from the free-throw line in roughly 25 minutes.
So why are people down on this guy again?
“I’ve never had a problem playing in any situation as far as an up-tempo or half-court offense,” Miller explained. “I think I can adjust to either game and it’s big when you have some guys in the post that can get the ball and score. It makes my job easier. And then you have shooters around you, and that makes my job easier. This team has a lot of talent at every position. I was just trying to save my energy actually and take it one breath at a time and just try and get into shape. It’s a long season.”
At one point in the 2nd quarter, Miller even a crossed over Kings rookie Tyreke Evans on a drive to the hoop that even had Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in awe from the bench.
“That was just a solid move. He has that in his game and he pulls it out every now and again,” said Aldridge.
Two lockers down, Miller played the silent type.
“I normally don’t do stuff like that.”
Sure he doesn’t. Yet what Miller generally does do on the floor is talk the game and direct traffic – regardless if he’s part of the five on the floor or apparently watching from the baseline.
“Him being the point guard he is, he’s a lot more vocal than the rest of us so it’s great when he’s like, ‘Nah, I got it. Go over there.’ Communication is such a big part of this game. He knows what he wants,” began Travis Outlaw. “He sees things happen even before they happen.”
Before the start of the game, head coach Nate McMillan was asked about the starting point guard dilemma in Portland between Steve Blake and Miller, an ever popular debate leading into a season where the Blazers look to build upon a 54-win season and a return to the Playoffs.
“I know what (Steve) Blake can do. I need to look at Miller. I want to see him,” McMillan admitted.
Roughly three hours later, McMillan got an eye and ear full of Miller.
“He’s the one guy that is communicating and talking on the defensive end of the floor,” McMillan said of the 10-year veteran point guard. “We need to get everyone else doing that.”
Maybe now Portland can start talking about what Andre Miller is instead of what he isn’t.
Wendell Maxey is a freelance writer now in his third season covering the Portland Trail Blazers. You can read more of his writing at Beyondthebeat.net.