If (like me) you weren't watching "SportsCenter" on Monday evening, you might have missed a report that called into question the future of Miami Heat forward Mike Miller. According to Ethan Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post, ESPN reported after Monday's pre-Game 1 practice session "that Miller has told teammates to try win for him, because it could be the last two weeks of his NBA career, even with three years left on his contract."
At first blush, it makes some sense — Miller's missed 96 regular-season games with a variety of injuries over the past three years, including 68 of 148 since signing a five-year deal with the Heat two seasons ago, and the constant damage has made him a far cry from the player who once won Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year honors. Plus, he's had his Pompano Beach house on the market for months, which is the kind of thing people tend to see as a sign that you're looking to pull up stakes.
Still, the prospect of a 32-year-old who's still a rotation player on an NBA finalist considering retirement is pretty big news, especially when the story drops just 24 hours before the start of the Finals. Apparently, it was news to Miller, too. At least, the immediate response he sent to a text message requesting follow-up comment sure makes it seem that way. From Ira Winderman at the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
The text message was swift and to the point, only minutes after ESPN reported that he had said these NBA Finals could be the final two weeks of his career.
"What!!!!" was the text message reply from Miami Heat forward Mike Miller to the Sun Sentinel.
OK, let's all hold our horses here. Maybe Mike Miller, like every other American dude who was in his teens in the late 1990s, is just a really big "Stone Cold" Steve Austin fan.
Then again, maybe it's both that he's a really big "Stone Cold" Steve Austin fan (duh) and he was legitimately very surprised to hear a report that he's talking about hanging 'em up after the Finals. More from Winderman:
A few minutes later, after [Miller] had the chance to get to others who had made him aware of the report, came a phone call. "I'm not retiring," he told the Sun Sentinel. "I don't know what I'm doing."
Miller told both Skolnick and Winderman that he had not even come close to any decisions about his future, but did acknowledge that his continued injury issues — after having surgery on his thumb and shoulder last offseason, this year he's battled a back injury, undergone hernia surgery and missed 14 games with a sprained left ankle — will lead him to re-evaluate his health after the season and see what the future holds. But unless Miller gets all four of his limbs chopped off over the next two weeks, you'd have to expect that once the season ends, Miller will take a look at a contract set to pay him $18.6 million over the next three years, according to ShamSports.com's salary database — $5.8 million next season, $6.2 million in 2013-14 and a $6.6 million player option for 2014-15 that a dinged-up, 34-year-old Miller would be very likely to pick up — and decide to continue plying his trade in the NBA.
And even if, as some suspect, the Heat may consider using the collective bargaining agreement's amnesty provision to jettison Miller's contract and wipe that $18.6 million off their books, the team would still have to pay Miller to go away, leaving him free to call on other suitors, some of whom might be willing to look past his medical history and focus on the fact that he hit 45.3 percent of his 3-pointers for the Heat this year. If the professionalism/leadership/long-range accuracy troika can keep Derek Fisher in uniform, why couldn't it do the same for Mike Miller?
If Miller can still lace them up, he'll find employment, and as long as that's true, maybe we'd be best served running retirement rumors past him from here on out. Well, either him or his most trusted associate.