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Unclebuck
03-08-2005, 08:00 PM
Miller set pace for youngsters
Mentor: Indiana's star leaves an impression on many players he taught
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake Tribune



Indiana guard Reggie Miller, right, plays his last game in Utah tonight. He plans to retire at season's end. (Associated Press file photo )

At first, 18-year-old Al Harrington didn't know what to make of his new teammate.

Drafted out of high school by the Indiana Pacers in 1998, Harrington spent his rookie season in the NBA keeping Reggie Miller at arm's length and wondering exactly what the trash-talking, sharpshooting veteran had against him.

"He picked on me a lot," said Harrington. "I thought it was probably because I was this young kid who hadn't paid his dues. Then, the second year, I came back and he told me, 'I'm going to teach you how to play.' And he did. . . . He taught me to be professional. He taught me to play the right way."

Today, Harrington toils for the Atlanta Hawks - traded by the Pacers just before the start of the season.

Meanwhile, Miller is winding down a Hall of Fame career, after announcing his pending retirement last month. He plays his final game in Utah tonight at the Delta Center, and he remains good friends with one of the many young players he has mentored.

"It's funny we're so close," Harrington said. "My first year, I didn't like him at all. But after that, I fell in love with him. He's just a great human being. That's the big thing. That's the thing people don't know about Reggie."

If Miller is appreciated anywhere outside of Indiana, it should be Utah.
Because of his production, durability, longevity, devotion to one organization and commitment to one community, Miller's career has an unmistakable Stockton-Malone quality to it.

Miller seemed uncomfortable when that notion was suggested to him after practice Monday afternoon, although he finally said, "Maybe just because of who I am - getting the opportunity to stay in one place [and] grow up in one city, like John and Karl."

Since coming out of UCLA in 1987, Miller has helped the Pacers reach the playoffs 14 times in 17 years. Indiana has endured only four losing seasons during his career - just one since 1992.

The Miller-led Pacers reached the Eastern Conference finals six times and the NBA Finals once. But they have never won a championship, losing Game 7 of the conference finals three times and falling in six games to the Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals.

Miller does not dwell on his lack of a title, nor does he carry one favorite career memory with him:
Not the night he scored 25 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Knicks in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals.

Not the night he scored eight points in the final 8.9 seconds to give Indiana a 107-105 win over New York in Game 1 of the 1995 conference finals.

Not the night his three-pointer with 0.7 seconds left gave the Pacers a 96-94 win over Chicago in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference finals.
No.

Miller's career highlight is far less dramatic: "Just having the opportunity to travel around and play the game. . . . Going into other cities and trying to steal victories."

Miller enters tonight's game against the Jazz as the No. 13 scorer in league history. With 24,835 points, he needs 165 points in the final 23 games to reach 25,000. He needs 358 points - an average of 15.5 - to pass Jerry West for 12th place in the all-time scoring list.

"He's had a tremendous career - the way he's kept himself ready to play," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "To me, it looks like he loves to play. That's what I see."

Miller also loves to trash-talk and take game-deciding shots - maybe in that order.

"He's the ultimate 'get-under-your-skin' type of player," said Raja Bell, who experienced a Miller Moment last year during a 96-89 loss to Indiana.
"I don't normally talk to other players," Bell said. "But I said something
to him. He just kind of looked at me. Then he hit his next three shots, including the game-winner. Classic Reggie."
Bell relearned something he already knew: "Don't talk to a professional talker like Reggie. No way are you going to come out on top."

Along with Seattle's Ray Allen, Miller shares the Jazz opponent record for most three-pointers in a half (six).

"I've guarded him a lot of times," said Matt Harpring "He's probably the best in the league at using his arms and his body to get open and get shots off. And in that fourth quarter - with the game on the line - he used to go crazy. Absolutely on fire. That's what I'll always remember about Reggie."

"He's a great competitor - one of the all-time big shot guys in the league," said Jazz assistant coach Tyrone Corbin. "If you needed a big basket, he'd get you something good."

"Definitely a guy who would consistently make big shots," said Howard Eisley. " . . . You don't see too many jump shooters sustain what he did for so long."

In Miller's final year, however, the Pacers are struggling. Just one season after winning 61 games and reaching the conference finals, Indiana brings a 29-30 record to Utah.

Gutted by injuries and crippled by suspensions resulting from their infamous brawl during a game against Detroit in November, the Pacers are battling just to make the playoffs.

Last week, though, Jermaine O'Neal promised they would do everything possible to make sure Miller leaves a winner - as unlikely as that seems right now.

"[We] have a huge task ahead of us - get him an NBA championship," O'Neal said.
Pacers at Jazz

http://www.sltrib.com/sports/ci_2599086