By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
Published: March 17, 2013 - 05:50 PM
It wasn’t always this way for C.J. Miles. He didn’t always have the freedom to shoot so often without repercussions. There was a time when he had to be much more careful, when he was playing just to stay on the court rather than playing to win the game.
Now as he concludes his first season with the Cavaliers, the game is coming a little easier for him again. His 3-pointer from the corner during the second quarter Saturday of a loss at the San Antonio Spurs gave Miles 110 3-pointers this season, a new career high. Considering the size of the hole he dug for himself at the beginning of the season, the new personal best is even more impressive.
“I think just knowing you can be more aggressive and make plays has given me a lot of confidence,” Miles said. “It took me some time to get more confident on the floor, but now I’m back to being really confident.”
Miles’ start to the season was disastrous for a new guy working on a deal that was guaranteed for only one year. He made five 3-pointers through the first six games of the season and was shooting 22 percent on 3-pointers (23 percent overall).
He was a mess mentally, his confidence was sagging and physically he was battling a stomach flu. Coach Byron Scott gave Miles a week off to clear his head, refocus and rest. He has been a staple to the rotation ever since.
“He got off to a slow start, then he lost his spot in the rotation, then he got it back,” Scott said. “Since he has gotten it back, he has taken full advantage of it. He has been a little more of a vocal guy than I thought he was, but he’s been a little bit of everything I expected, especially on the court.”
Miles’ 110 3-pointes surpasses his old high of 109 set two years ago with the Utah Jazz. He is shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers this season, which is the second-highest mark of his career. But Miles attempted just 77 during his third season in the league, when he shot 39 percent. He has attempted 287 this season with 16 games left to go.
“It’s a different mindset. I think it just took me some time to really get confident and really get used to being able to not have to worry about making a mistake,” Miles said. “I was on a shorter leash before just because of the fact you weren’t allowed to be aggressive, which usually leads to mistakes. Playing aggressive, you usually make the right plays because your instincts take over. After really getting comfortable, I’ve been able to do more and more things.”
Miles picked a bad time to have a lousy season. He shot 38 percent his last year with the Jazz, which was his worst mark in five years. After seven seasons, the two sides had seen enough of each other and it was time for him to go.
“I felt like I was kind of given up on just because I had been there awhile,” Miles said. “And the way the team was going, I didn’t fit. It wasn’t these harsh feelings, it was just time. It had run its course. There wasn’t this big blowup or this big thing like I hated the people, it was just time. They knew it and I knew it.”
Coming off such a poor shooting year, Miles settled for a two-year deal from the Cavaliers, but only this season is guaranteed. He had other options. The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers were both interested, but Miles said the Lakers were oscillating between negotiating a deal with him one day, then trying to trade for Dwight Howard the next. The uncertainty of the Lakers’ situation meant Miles wasn’t sure what his role would ultimately be, and he was determined to use this free agency adventure to find the right fit.
Now that his first season in Cleveland is concluding, Miles believes he made the right choice.
He plays with the ball in his hands more here than he ever did with the Jazz. He loves the creativity of dribble handoffs and told Scott at their first meeting he thought he could incorporate it well into his game — and he has.
He is a streaky shooter and likely always will be, but has provided some much needed pop off the bench. Miles’ season-high is 33 points and he has twice reached 28.
As for next season, when the Cavs hold the option, all indications are that he will return. And if he doesn’t, he has at least positioned himself more favorably with a productive season, compared to his below average performance last season.
“If they decide that I’m not part of what they want to do here, I think I’ll be fine come summer time given the way I played this year,” Miles said. “Hopefully I’m still here with these knuckleheads.”