July 17, 2009
You're supposed to loaf and go through the motions after you sign a free agent contract at age 33. Not before you sign a new deal. Not in a contract year.
Now, I can understand why you might be taken aback with my sly, smart-alecky opener. 16 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game hardly seems like taking it easy, especially when you play 82 games. And if you pay attention to PER, which we do, Dre has turned in some of his best two seasons in 2007-08 and 2008-09, at least since his first year in Denver.
And for a guy who turned 33 in the last month of the season, a point guard especially, that's pretty good.
But if you watched the games, man, this guy sure did take plays off. Quarters off, even. It was obvious he was having no fun working for the Philadelphia 76ers in the final year of his contract, and especially interim coach Tony DiLeo, and either he tried to make it as obvious as possible, or he's really bad at not letting things that are completely obvious come off as supremely obvious.
What I'm trying to say is that Miller obviously chose the wrong year to try and take it easy. The rumor now is that he'll take a one-year, $5.8 million deal to play for the Knicks in 2009-10, but it's a clear one-year rental. And how hard is it going to be to bring it every night when you know you won't be back the next season?
If 2008-09 is any indication, for Miller, it's pretty damn hard.
Dre's a tremendous player. An 18.6 PER at his age is fantastic, and it's more than possible that he will sustain or even top that production next season, for any team. But he probably assumed himself a perfect fit for the Portland Trail Blazers, especially with all their cap space; and apparently the Portland Trail Blazers didn't want to know. Whoops.
I can't tell you with any degree of certainty that the league-wide disinterest in Miller has anything to do with what I saw from him last season. It could be an economics thing, or teams may have been turned off by the way he skipped out on his final team meeting with the 76ers following their first round playoff loss to the Orlando Magic last spring.
But it is possible that they saw what I saw. And while I'm not happy that Miller is struggling to find work, it is nice to see a little bit of possible payback in a league where owners still want to trade for Zach Randolph(notes), or pay for Allen Iverson to join your team.
For the Knicks? Miller should be fine. As I pointed out, even with the attitude issues he still came through with terrific production for a team that made the playoffs. And the last time he tossed up a stinkbomb for a team he wanted nothing to do with - his disastrous turn as a Los Angeles Clipper back in 2002-03 - Miller rebounded with a career year as a Denver Nugget the following season, leading them to the postseason even as every mainstream commenter around pinned the resurgence on Carmelo Anthony(notes).
It's just a little funny to me, how this worked out. I expected this guy to destroy things in 2008-09, working for that contract, while turning into a poison pill that some team would swoop up with a regrettable three-year contract this summer. Instead, we got nearly the opposite.