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Will Galen
10-05-2004, 03:58 AM

Miller hints at retirement
Pacers' all-time leading scorer talks like his 18th season in the NBA just might be his last.

By Sekou Smith
October 5, 2004

Reggie Miller's 18th NBA season could be his last.

Miller didn't announce his retirement during the Pacers' media day Monday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse. But he gave plenty of hints.

"If I was a Pacer fan here in Indiana, I would definitely tell them every home game in town to come on down," said Miller, who has the option to extend his contract through 2005-06. "If I was a Pacer fan in another city, I would tell them to check the schedule and see when Indiana comes to town.

"I'm going to let my body do the talking. I've got two years left, but I'll play it by ear. We'll see about this year and we'll see about the option year."

Miller's teammates aren't taking any chances. Jermaine O'Neal, who worked out with Miller this summer in Los Angeles, said Miller told him that this season might be his last.

"It was kind of surprising that he would mention it to me," O'Neal said. "I joke around with him a lot about his age and he usually comes back with something like, 'Yeah, but I'm still playing.' But this summer he said a couple of times that this is his last year, so we have to put him in a great position to win."

Miller, who turned 39 on Aug. 24, has spent his career with the Pacers.

But he has no intention of finishing as a bit player, a role he was relegated to the past three seasons as All-Star forwards O'Neal and Ron Artest assumed their respective roles as the Pacers' first and second options on offense.

Instead, Miller said he plans to revert to the aggressive style that has made him one of the NBA's top scorers, not to mention the face and soul of a franchise.

"I'm looking to play like I played three or four years ago, especially in terms of the postseason," said Miller, who ranks 14th on the NBA's career scoring list with 24,305 points. "I know I've deferred a lot and obviously, I'm still going to do that to a certain degree . . . but I'm looking to be much more aggressive this year."

Miller, the Pacers' career scoring leader, averaged 10 points per game last season, his lowest output since he had an identical average as a rookie in 1987-88.

He and Jamaal Tinsley combined to form the NBA's lowest scoring starting backcourt last season.

The decline in production prompted plenty of debate about when Miller should retire. That talk intensified in each of the Pacers' past two postseason runs.

"Only a player knows when it's time to give it up, and there was some speculation last winter whether Reggie was going to come back or not," Pacers president Larry Bird said. "But this is very important to Reggie. He wants to get back to the (NBA) Finals again. And he knows that he has the team that, if it can stay together, can do that."

Even more important, Bird said, is that Miller be rewarded for not leaving for a quick-fix opportunity to chase a championship elsewhere.

"Reggie's identity is here in Indianapolis, so when you talk about Reggie Miller you talk about him being a Pacer," said Bird, who played his entire Hall of Fame career in Boston. "It's very important for him to finish his career here and to go out on a good note."

Thanks to an offseason that didn't include rehabbing injuries, Miller was able to devote himself to improving his conditioning and refining his game.

He said he did more work than usual this summer because his body allowed it.

He spent most of the previous summer in a cast, recovering from ankle surgery and never caught up.

"I was three or four steps behind everyone (in training camp)," Miller said. "The chance to get back to just playing basketball and not go and see trainers all day was nice. I got back to all my routines, running beaches, running hills and playing basketball."

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said this season won't be different from any other for Miller, meaning the starting shooting guard will be a focal point for opposing defenses.

"Reggie's obviously going to be an important guy for us and he's had a great summer working out, preparing," Carlisle said. "There are a lot of things he brings to the table, being an 18-year veteran, that are just very important to us."

There are still a few roadblocks on the way to the NBA Finals, though, namely the defending champion Pistons and the Shaquille O'Neal-led Miami Heat.

Yet like last year, and years before, Miller believes the Larry O'Brien Trophy is there for the taking. He didn't speak in sentimental terms, however. Winning a title at age 39, he said, would be no different from winning it at 24.

"I thought the door was wide open last year," Miller said. "The door has really been wide open the last few years, even when San Antonio was winning their championships.

"It's whoever gets hot late, whoever has the cohesive unit and plays together as a team."

Key dates

Today: Training camp opens

Monday: Preseason opener vs. Washington, 7 p.m.

Nov. 3: Regular season opens at Cleveland

Nov. 6: Regular season home opener vs. Chicago, 8 p.m.

10-05-2004, 04:06 AM
yeah I was reading Pacers.com and listen to his audio , I would almost bet anyone a steak dinner a St Elmo's that he will retire , his comments to the fans were about you better come to a pacers game this year , he didn't say it maybe your last chance to see me , but it's pretty damn close.