There’s a disturbing narrative surrounding the Andre Miller situation in the Denver Nuggets media.
Specifically the notion that there is no situation and never has been. If you were to peruse the major Denver Nuggets media outlets for a picture of Andre Miller’s last two seasons, it looks like nothing but smooth sailing and mountains of praise from his Denver coaches.
The 37-year old point guard deserves praise for his longevity and uniquely crafted skill set, just as Benjamin Hochman pointed out in his latest weekend piece for the Denver Post. But that picturesque portrayal of Miller’s time in Denver was enough to make anyone who’s more than a casual Nuggets fan do a serious double take — mainly because it just doesn’t match up with what they’ve seen and experienced these past two years.
Miller’s career in Denver has been a lot more than crafty veteran footwork and acute lob passing. He visibly sulked on the court last season while struggling to adjust to his new bench role. He has not been one of the Nuggets most consistent players since arriving in Denver, yet his minutes aren’t monitored and adjusted the way they are with the younger guys. No matter how things are going in the game, Miller often sees the same amount of minutes, leading some to suspect his overt special relationship with George Karl has resulted in favoritism.
What’s worse is the fact Miller has publicly complained about his role on a team that continues to profess their love for him. Last season, Andre told Chris Tomasson he doesn’t see himself as a backup but noted “this is a short season and I’ll deal with it.” Last month, Andre more or less repeated his sentiments to Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette, reaffirming his stance and quelling any notion that Miller has adjusted his attitude over the past year.
Those are two concrete interviews coming from trusted journalists in the Denver community (Tomasson is a grizzled veteran of the Nuggets beat). Remind me again why the Nuggets and all media they associate with refuse to acknowledge either of these incidents happened?
Instead, the Denver Nuggets media has kept on selling their pristine image of Andre Miller in Denver — the wily veteran who is a positive force in the locker room and on the floor despite being 37-years old and physically outclassed by everyone in the NBA.
Not only is that a fairy tale, it’s a woefully incomplete picture of the relationship. Miller’s latest comments followed a run of recent Nuggets wins in which Andre’s fourth quarter minutes saw a serious dip. With the return of Wilson Chandler and emergence of Corey Brewer, Andre Miller’s customary fourth quarter time was no longer handed to him no-questions-asked, and Miller wasn’t happy.
Since then, Miller has seen more fourth quarter action due to injuries. He’s made statements in every game, looking to show he can still get it done when the chips are down and the Nuggets need a fourth quarter bucket. Miller took those big shots for himself (including several threes) and the Nuggets came up short in three straight losses before finally winning again at home, where Miller returned to a sub-25 minute role off the bench.
Nuggets fans genuinely want to like Miller, but they are smart enough to understand his role on this team. They realize the Nuggets’ future is in the hands of young players who need guidance and leadership in the locker room. They realize Andre shooting a three at the end of a game with two better players on the court is unacceptable. They realize a defiant Andre Miller isn’t doing the Nuggets any favors unless he starts accepting reality and his rightful backup role.
In my opinion, Nuggets fans are right. They wouldn’t have to be constantly reminded to like Andre Miller if he wasn’t stirring up locker room drama and putting himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
We all hope this is the year Andre’s veteran savvy will pay dividends during the playoffs. But barring some miracle run deep into the playoffs, we also know Miller’s role is diminishing and he’s a short-term fix on a very young team.
The only way to describe Miller’s relationship with the Denver Nuggets and their fans is awkward. He doesn’t like his role on the budding young team and fans don’t like him back.
I’ve been in a problem relationship before. It wasn’t a bad one, but we probably spent months exchanging pleasantries and denying the fact neither one of us had any substantial feelings left for the other. That’s where both the Nuggets and Andre Miller are currently.
It’s time to stop buying the company line that there’s no problem, never has been a problem and Andre Miller is happily headed for great things with the Denver Nuggets. It’s a strained relationship that’s only getting weirder as both sides hope for a miracle playoff run to magically fix everything.
Miller should be gone by next season’s trade deadline, when the nonguaranteed portion of his third year becomes enticing for a team looking to add veteran help. Until then, this awkward dance goes on and Miller will continue to be one of the least-liked Nuggets unless he changes his attitude.
That’s all up to him.