The Denver Nuggets are on fire! When the team travels to Cleveland tonight to take on the Cavaliers, they will do so riding the wave of an eight-game winning streak. They have won 21 of their past 27 and boast a staggering 22-3 record at the friendly confines of Pepsi Center.
A team mired in mediocrity through the first two months of the season is suddenly a top-four seed in the stacked Western Conference and many an analyst has speculated that the Nuggets will have little trouble cracking the top three before the season is done.
There’s only one issue: The Nuggets’ veteran leader isn’t buying in.
Andre Miller is Denver’s backup point guard and at 36 years old, he’s the senior member of the fourth-youngest team in the NBA. He’s smart, savvy and effective in small doses. The problem is that Andre no longer seems satisfied with that role.
Miller spoke to the Colorado Springs Gazette earlier this week about Denver’s recent run of success, and he used the opportunity to rain on the Nuggets’ parade.
“No. I don’t care how much team basketball you play or how much talent you have all spread out,” Miller said, when asked if this Nuggets team can be successful in the postseason. “You can’t win in this league without a superstar. You can’t win a championship. I don’t even think you can even advance in the playoffs without that marquee player.”
Wow, way to instill confidence in your young teammates, Andre.
Obviously, I think most NBA pundits would agree with Miller’s assessment to a certain degree, but that’s not something you say publicly when you are the leader of a top-four team in the league. After 13 years in this game, Miller should know better. Actually scratch that; he does know better.
So what could possibly be at the heart of such an outburst?
“I want more minutes,” Miller said. “If we were losing, I would really be complaining. But it’s going as it goes.”
Ah ha, now we’re getting somewhere. Miller is unhappy with his playing time here in Denver, so now he’s getting rambunctious. Word of advice though, Andre; maybe don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
It’s no secret why Andre Miller is on this team. George Karl loves him as a player. Earlier this year, the coach claimed that Miller is a top-10 point guard of all-time. Now, I don’t profess to be an NBA expert, but I’d say it’s debatable that ‘Dre has ever even been a top-10 point guard in the league during his career.
But to each his own, and here we are as Nuggets fans stuck with an aging malcontent that fails to see his place in the NBA at this stage of the game.
“I don’t know how much longer they want me here. I definitely would like to contribute more,” Miller added when I asked if he wants to finish in Denver. “I’m not just going to sit back and settle in and be a backup and let my career just fade away. I’m competitive in that way.”
What’s amusing about these comments is that Miller made very similar remarks halfway through the season last year, yet re-upped with the Nuggets for three years in the offseason without so much as testing the free agent market.
What exactly did he expect? To return to Denver, he had to realize that his value on the open market was limited. And at 25 minutes a game this season, it’s hard to see what team with any modicum of success would be offering Miller more playing time than he is receiving here.
Miller’s statistics have been respectable, but certainly not spectacular. He averages 8.7 points and 5.8 assists per game with a player efficiency rating of 15.21. A glance at the backup point guards for other Western Conference playoff teams reveals that those numbers are about middle of the road; Miller is also averaging more minutes than five of the seven of them. Oh, one more thing; he is the oldest guy on the list by seven years.
You see, most teams tend to have a younger player running their second unit. The inherent value in that system is having the ability to develop a player with upside without forcing the weight of the team on his shoulders. My point is that Miller should be psyched that a young, solid team even wants him on their roster. If the Nuggets hadn’t offered him a contract, he could just as easily have been forced to play for a team like Toronto or Orlando.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Miller for what he brings to the table. The Nuggets were right to re-sign him, considering that a reunion with Chauncey Billups wasn’t happening and the rest of the free agency landscape at point guard was pretty bleak. But if Miller is going to continue to take shots at the team and gripe about his playing time, perhaps Denver should rethink their stance.
Plenty of fans are still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Nuggets. It could still happen yet, as the remainder of the team’s schedule is far less favorable than the past month has been. The team’s veteran leader and the coach’s favorite player not buying in will only exacerbate that potential problem. Do us all a favor, Andre – get on board with this team or kindly ask Masai Ujiri for a ticket out of town.
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