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Hope you did not miss this article on Reggie Miller
Ron Artest had been suspended again, and the Indiana Pacers were splintering like a windshield hit by a rock. Management gathered the players and talked and talked. It was all wrong, it couldn't go on.
After a while, Reggie Miller stood up and looked at Artest.
"I'll tell you something," Miller said. "I did all those things you did. I spit at the crowd. No matter what you do, I'll back all of you."
And with that Miller left the room.
"Obviously, Ronnie was wrong," team President Donnie Walsh said of the combustible Artest. "But Reggie was saying he was there for him."
Not the way Miller once was. Certainly not at 38 years old and in his 17th NBA season, all with the Pacers. But the brash kid once best known for being Cheryl Miller's little brother has been a big brother to these Indiana Pacers, and a big reason why the Pacers are the best team in the Eastern Conference as they come in to play the Bulls on Tuesday.
"I look at Reggie," teammate Jermaine O'Neal said. "He rolls his ankle, he still plays. He goes through so much and is still there. I try to pattern myself after him."
Reggie Miller was a spindly kid who couldn't even walk right until he was 5 years old. Born into a family of athletic achievers, including Cheryl and older brother Darrell, a future major-league catcher, he had to wear braces to bed to straighten his twisted legs.
Hard work enabled him to overcome that obstacle, just as it helped him to an All-American career at UCLA and a productive pro career.
It began in the back yard under the direction of his Air Force father Saul, and it hasn't stopped. The first Pacer at the arena every game is Miller. The first Pacer to stand up and take a big shot is Miller. Not every shot--that's left to the kids, O'Neal, Artest and Al Harrington, all of whom average more points per game than Miller.
But when it's time . . .
"Throughout his career, I've never felt Reggie shot enough," said Walsh, who was booed heavily when he chose Miller at No. 11 in the 1987 draft over hometown hero Steve Alford. "But the one thing he does is when he senses the game is on the line, he goes after the ball. He really wants that."
Few seem less qualified to be an NBA star than Miller. His 6-foot-7-inch frame barely carries 190 pounds. He's not particularly quick and not known for beating players off the dribble. He's not particularly athletic, not a leaper with spectacular moves. He just wins games.
There probably has never been a better clutch player in NBA history than Reggie Miller. You can look it up.
None of the big stars--Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Shaquille O'Neal, Oscar Roberston, Bill Russell--has a bigger margin between playoff and regular-season scoring averages. It might be the best way to gauge a pressure player, because in the playoffs, scoring goes down as defensive intensity goes up.
And it's not like Miller was a regular-season failure. His career average was just below 20 points for a dozen seasons.
But his playoff scoring average hovered near 25 per game and still is almost 23 per game, a striking difference of some four points per game. That ranks among the best ever in the NBA. He ranks in the NBA's top 25 in career playoff scoring.
"He wants that responsibility," Walsh said.
That makes him a rarity in the NBA, even among many of the so-called stars. Few want that big-shot responsibility. Perhaps no one has asked for it more often than Miller.
"I think he's the most unappreciated star ever," Walsh said.
Miller will have none of it, though he remains a model of team play and decorum. He has never criticized a coach or management and remains committed to fundamental play and hard work.
"Players play, coaches coach, general managers manage," Miller said simply. "It doesn't do the team any good to complain and cry over minutes or shots, a reduced role, changes. All you can do is go to practice and work harder."
Actually, few top players would have more reason to complain than Miller.
After suffering with lesser teams for years, the Pacers finally reached the NBA Finals in 2000.
"It was a series we had every right to win," Miller said. "We could easily have won Games 2 and 6, and we had Game 4 (a two-point OT loss at home after the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal fouled out). That was tough when those guys left."
Rik Smits retired, Dale Davis was traded and Miller's close friend, Mark Jackson, was let go.
"I was worried," Walsh conceded. "He didn't have anyone to hang out with anymore."
But Miller didn't complain. He just played.
"I saw Jermaine with his work ethic and how much he wanted it," Miller said. "I was excited by the opportunity."
An opportunity to return to the NBA Finals? Perhaps. Miller wants it badly. He has hit the big shots and put up the statistics. He's the NBA's career leader in three-point shots and is among the best free-throw shooters ever. He has played for winning U.S. national teams.
"My job here is to nurture, teach and help these kids," Miller said.
He hopes to play through the end of his three-year, $19 million contract that runs through the 2005-06 season. "But I don't want to be here coming off the bench playing spot minutes," he said. "To me that would be stealing. So I'm taking it year by year."
Miller ranks among the league leaders in three-point shooting, free-throw shooting and assist/turnover ratio. And defenses still "honor" him.
"I'm having fun and still playing well," he said. "[Defenses] don't leave me. They play me coming off screens, they double-team me. If they play me the same way, they obviously respect me."
It speaks to the Pacers' depth that their longtime go-to guy is flourishing in the role of third or fourth scorer.
"I think we're good enough to get back to the Finals," Miller said. "We match up well against Western teams. The only thing that can hold us back is whether we're mentally ready. Last year's team wasn't. Mentally, can we take the punch? We haven't faced much adversity yet, so I want to see how we react. But we've lost a few in a row and last year it would snowball into five or six. This year it's not happening."
Miller realizes he's running out of chances.
"I feel for guys like Scottie Pippen," he said. "Guys like Charles Barkley, who had to retire prematurely. Guys I've played with, guys who have played after me who are gone. I've kept my body in shape and work out hard all summer and I've been lucky."
And very good.
Reggie Miller's Top 10 playoff performances
1. 1995 conference semifinals vs. Knicks: Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to win Game 1. He hit a three-pointer, stole the inbounds pass and stepped back for another three-pointer, then made two free throws.
2. 1998 conference finals vs. Bulls: Miller won Game 4 with less than a second left on a three-pointer. Michael Jordan claimed Miller pushed off. Bryon Russell had no comment.
3. 1994 conference finals vs. Knicks: Miller hit five three-pointers and scored 25 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5.
4. 2002 first round vs. Nets: Miller hit a 40-foot three-pointer to send the deciding game into overtime and then a driving dunk to force a second overtime before the Pacers lost to the eventual conference champions.
5. 1998 conference semifinals vs. Knicks: Miller forced overtime in Game 4 with a three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left and had 38 points in the win.
6. 2000 first round: Miller scored 41 points in the Game 5 clincher and then 40 points in the conference semifinals opener as the Pacers went on to the Finals.
7. 2000 Finals vs. Lakers: Miller averaged 29.5 points the last four games as the Pacers fell in six games.
8. 1996 first round vs. Atlanta: Scored 16 points in the fourth quarter of the deciding fifth game after missing the first four games with injuries.
9. 2000 playoffs: Averaged 31.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in the deciding game in each series through the NBA Finals.
10. 2001 first round vs. Philadelphia: Averaged 31.3 points and five rebounds in series against eventual conference champions.
Re: Hope you did not miss this article on Reggie Miller
I think honestly that Reggie's heart & mind were in the right spot with regards to Ron, but I think that he was one of the reasons that Isiah might have had such a rough go with Ronnie.
Interesting take. I would have to know the context of the meeting where Reggie stood up and defended Ronnie. I trust reggie's judgement in knowing what is best for the team when. 17 years of NBA experience should teach hiom what is needed when