Determined Miller Doesn't Want Trade
That third one is how many here are viewing Portland's dysfunctional season.
Yes, the Trail Blazers have been hurt by injuries. And, yes, they're still a very young team. But Portland did go 54-28 last season to tie Denver at the top of the Northwest Division (the Nuggets won the tiebreaker for the right to hoist a banner). And even more was expected this season out of the Trail Blazers.
It hasn't been happening for this 13-8 outfit. So many are blaming the point guard who was Portland's major offseason acquisition, but is coming off the bench behind Steve Blake. There have been rumors Miller, signed to a three-year, $21 million deal last July as a free agent, could be traded after becoming eligible Dec. 15.
"People are going to always point fingers, especially when you play one way last year and a new guy comes in and things change,'' Trail Blazers shooting guard Brandon Roy said in an interview with FanHouse.
Roy agrees Miller has been made a scapegoat in Portland, but doesn't believe that to be fair. Roy said comments he made last month that might have exacerbated the situation were taken out of context.
"People are reading a little too much into things, and the comments when coach (Nate McMillan) went to a three-guard lineup (from Nov. 6-20),'' Roy said. "I wanted to be a (shooting guard rather than a small forward) and people assumed that I wanted Blake to be the point and Andre out. And that wasn't the case at all, I didn't mind if Dre started or Blake. I wanted to be the (shooting guard).
"Coach knew where I was standing, but people around with him felt that I didn't want to play with Andre. But that's not the case. I think in this locker room he's grown and we're getting to understand him even more.''
So Roy is saying he wants Miller to stick around, right?
"Yeah,'' Roy said. "I think he's a good player, especially with the guys we're losing. He can make plays for us and that's what we need right now.''
Roy was speaking after Saturday's game against Houston, when the Trail Blazers had just lost center Greg Oden for the season with a knee injury. Oden joins the shelf already occupied by forwards Nicholas Batum (shoulder surgery) and Travis Outlaw, who both will miss the bulk of the season.
Perhaps Oden's injury will end up changing how Miller is perceived in Portland. Roy predicts the team now will go to a more perimeter-oriented attack, "changing from inside out to outside in,'' which could increase Miller's importance.
A change in Miller's game was noticeable Saturday after Oden went down four minutes into the game. In a 90-89 win, Miller scored a season-high 24 points while shooting 9-of-14 in 36 minutes.
"I found a little rhythm,'' said Miller, who raised his scoring average to 11.3. "That's a good thing ... But I don't know what's going to happen (with Oden being out).''
But there are some things Miller does know.
Miller said in an interview with FanHouse he doesn't want to be traded.
"[This] is where I want to be,'' Miller said. "I'm comfortable. Everything's not going to be gravy when you get into a new situation. So I just take it in stride.''
If Miller is being made out to be Portland's scapegoat, it's not bothering him.
"It's a business,'' he said. "I don't get caught up in pointing fingers. I'm here to play basketball. I came in here with a professional attitude, and that's how I want to keep it. If people want to point fingers at me, I could care less about that. I'll be all right.''
And Miller, 33, insisted he's not bothered by coming off the bench for the first time since the first half of his 1999-2000 rookie season.
"I'll do it,'' said Miller, whose average of 27.0 minutes is his lowest since 25.5 as a rookie. "I didn't make a big deal of it. Everybody else made it a big deal. Discussions were (when Miller signed) just the possibility of coming off the bench. There was nothing guaranteed (as far as starting). I knew that.
"The positive that I take is that it's just saving my body. I don't even feel like I've played the first month. It's definitely saving my legs, playing rookie minutes.''
Blake beat Miller out in training camp. Miller did get nine starts alongside Blake and Roy when McMillan went with the three-guard rotation, and Portland went 7-2.
But McMillan scrapped the plan after an ugly 108-94 loss Nov. 20 at Golden State, deciding it wasn't the best long-term approach. He continues to envision a scenario in which Miller is part of an effective second unit.
"We wanted to get the balance as far as Miller coming off the bench and Roy and Blake with that first group,'' McMillan said. "We had a plan how we wanted to take advantage of (Miller) and how we felt he could help us. My vision was to see Andre in the second group and playing with Rudy (Fernandez), Martell (Webster), Outlaw, Joel (Przybilla), Greg. Due to injuries, we haven't been able to see that. So we're having to adapt.''
McMillan and Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard wouldn't speculate on the chances Miller could be moved by the February trade deadline. But Pritchard did acknowledge it might be somewhat of an issue of Miller having to deal with not having been Portland's top choice in free agency.
The Trail Blazers initially went after forward Hedo Turkoglu before he bolted to Toronto at the last instant. Then they signed forward Paul Millsap to an offer sheet that Utah matched. Finally, they turned to Miller.
"I'm sure that's presented some challenges for him,'' said Pritchard, who does acknowledge Miller, like others on the team, must play better. "But here's the thing that I love about Andre. When he plays, he makes everybody around him better.''
Historically, that often has been the case. Nuggets coach George Karl, who loved having Miller play for him from when Karl joined the Nuggets in January 2005 to when Miller was dealt to Philadelphia in December 2006, cringed when the point guard signed with a division rival.
It obviously hasn't worked out as well as hoped for Portland. Miller is shooting just 41.9 percent and averaging what easily would be a career-low 4.7 assists. Many of his other statistics are as low as they've been since he was a rookie.
But Portland, with Oden going down, needs some players to step up. Although one game is hardly a true sample, Miller looks determined to get Trail Blazers' fans to shift any blame elsewhere.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.