Andre Miller Will Keep Free Agency Options Open
By Christopher Dempsey
The Denver Post
LOS ANGELES — Andre Miller didn't ask to be thrust into the situation he found himself in for the first time in his career, coming off the bench. So yes, it took time to get used to. And yes, he eventually did, reluctantly.
But, maybe, just maybe, he'll agree to an encore with the Nuggets.
Now that the season has ended, Miller is one of three free agents the Nuggets have to make decisions on this summer, the first normal NBA calendar since 2010. It's likely the Nuggets will attempt to bring him back after his at-times spectacular playoff series against the Lakers. Miller is the only unrestricted free agent on the roster, so the decision to stay or leave is solely his.
"I'll keep my options open," Miller said. "At this point in my career, if I'm going to be a backup, I'm going to be a backup on a championship-caliber team. Obviously, this team is a good team that's going to get to the playoffs, but the thing is if they are committed to getting to that next level to compete for that championship."
Miller teamed with point guard Ty Lawson to give the Nuggets a double-headed attack in this series, which most often was their most effective lineup. That pairing was on the floor when the Nuggets rallied from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter Saturday night to take the lead early in the fourth period.
Miller struggled throughout the game with his shooting, finishing with three points, but he had eight assists and 11 rebounds.
The Nuggets acquired Miller on draft night last season, a deal with Portland that sent Raymond Felton to the Blazers. While he played the fewest minutes of any season in his career (1,809), he still posted 6.7 assists per contest, only slightly under his career average of 7.2 and second-highest average since the 2006-07 season.
"I want to be on a team that's going to compete for a championship, and not use youth as a crutch or inexperience as a crutch," Miller said. "This team does have guys that can compete and can get out of the first round. It's just whether I can swallow my pride and deal with being a backup point guard. I have no problem with it, but at the same time I definitely still see myself as a starter in this league. Like I said, you have to swallow your pride sometimes. These young guys are coming in and they're working for it. So, that's just part of the business that I'm learning."
Meanwhile, center JaVale McGee and swingman Rudy Fernandez are restricted free agents. McGee made a name for himself during the series against the Lakers with a couple of huge games that raised his profile nationally and his value right along with it, though with such a small sample size since being traded to the Nuggets in March it's unknown how much McGee's value actually is.
He's been largely noncommittal about his desire to return, but the Nuggets can match any offer, giving them a leg up. McGee called the Nuggets "definitely a great organization," but said his agent would handle everything else.
Fernandez, whose season ended with back surgery, expressed a desire to return, but also said he'd savor his first chance to be a free agent.
"My time here was perfect," said Fernandez before leaving for Spain, where he is continuing to rehab. "I'm so happy to be a part of this community and this team. I think I have a very good relationship with the coach. The dynamic from basketball to play, I think it's perfect for me, to run to play hard. When I was healthy and feeling good, I think I'm a good player for this team and I help this team win.
"If they offer a contract, I'll listen to stay here and play with the Nuggets."
As it stands now, the Nuggets have a little over $51 million committed to contracts for next season, meaning they are in good standing in a salary cap that could go up from the $58.044 million cap this season.
Lawson is the wild card. He has one year left on his rookie contract, paying him $2.5 million next season. The Nuggets regard him as their franchise point guard and could look to sign him to a multi-year contract sooner rather than later.
Miller has been good for Lawson all season, but he admitted to struggling right off the bat even though he had been told what his new role would be.
"I think the struggling part was kind of the mental thing," Miller said. "I was prepared for it, but I think mentally I didn't want to accept it. So it took a little bit of time at first to get adjusted to it.
"You have to come out a little sharper off the bench. I have a whole new respect for guys that have to come off the bench and compete at that level. You have to come in ready, you have to come in clicking, and that's kind of what I tried to do, tried to keep everybody involved and not worry about my individual statistics. I think team-wise off the bench, our togetherness showed by being one of the best benches in the NBA."
Edited by LALakersFan4Life, July 01, 2012 - 07:59 PM.