He’s the NBA’s version of the early 80s Inspector Gadget.
He’s Portland’s quick-witted guard, who, like the crafty cartoon detective, has to solve a string of mysteries night in and night out.
Ditch the bulky grey trench coat and matching hat, and suit him in a No. 24 Trail Blazers’ jersey and watch Andre Miller break down defenses across the league with his sly arsenal of weapons and doodads.
For the 11-year pro out of Utah, his missions are never simple. Most of the times, they involve him having to decode the opposing team’s offensive and defensive schemes.
And when in action, sometimes, the 34-year-old Los Angeles native, who averages 13.3 points, 3.90 rebounds and 7.3 dimes per game, has to improvise.
But the NBA's 12th ranked passer can do it all.
He’s the basketball equivalent of your five-tool player in baseball, who can sneak to the rim and score buckets, snatch rebounds, dish laser-like projectiles and, if put in basic terms, can straight up ball.
“I’m just trying to be a leader at the point-guard position,” says Miller. “I’m coming in with good habits and trying to do what I can to keep guys in the right position to score the ball.”
Miller was spotted alone on the far court at the practice facility Friday morning, a day beating the Charlotte Bobcats 93-69 at home, working on his jumper.
Twenty minutes after practice. No teammates. No coaches.
Just Miller and a shooting machine that would dish the ball back to him after every made shot.
“300,” says Miller of the number of shots he threw up. “I’m just trying to get into a rhythm.”
To a leader, a mastermind and an artisan like Miller, getting in rhythm also entails encompassing 10 other players on the Trail Blazers’ roster in the rotation.
No one has benefited more from Miller’s assist game than the lob monster himself–LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge, who was named the Western Conference’s Player of the Month for February, leads the league with 83 alley-oops.
Aldridge has turned into a nightmare near the rim for defenders with aid from Miller’s passes, which have connected on 55 of Portland's 121 alley-oops to top the league.
How many times have Miller dialed in LA? Thirty-one times, which is second behind 32 from the Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard combination.
If Aldridge is the L-Train, then Miller is the conductor.
He sees the trap, the switch, room for the aerial pass, and watches as Aldridge elevates for the ball and throws down the booming slam.
“The main thing is to make people better,” says Miller. “But at some point you have to be good at all phases of the game.”
So when Portland is in need of a rebound, you’ll see him weaseling his way in between defenders in the paint to pick away the ball that may have players scratching their heads, wondering how did the 6-foot-2 guard pull down a board over your typical seven-foot center.
That’s exactly what happened when Atlanta came to town on Feb. 27, and the Hawks dropped an out-of-sync Portland squad 90-83.
Miller grabbed seven boards to finish as the Trail Blazers’ second-leading rebounder behind eight from Aldridge.
But Miller also came through on the offensive end after his team faced a 23-point deficit. He helped orchestrate a 16-2 run with two minutes remaining in regulation and drove in a lay-in to come back within six.
“I try to be [that second option],” says Miller, who led Portland with 20 points and four assists against the Hawks. “I try to stay involved. If I can stay involved, I can be effective on offense and defense. The main thing is keeping everybody else involved and then when the team needs somebody to step up and score, [I can] be a scorer.”
Since All-Star break, he has improved his averages to 14.3 points and 4.43 rebounds, while still passing 6.57 assists in his last seven games.
In the 107-106 overtime victory against the visiting Denver Nuggets on Feb. 25, Miller came one rebound and one assist away from recording his 10th career triple-double after ending with 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
“There are tough games after the All-Star break,” says Miller of the team’s 4-3 record. “It’s a tough month and there are some tough teams trying to fight for positions in the playoffs.”
The Trail Blazers are off to their best road streak of six games since doing so in March 2002.
“It’s just a sacrifice by everybody,” says Miller, “and willingness to share the ball and keep guys involved. Who ever has it going, you get him the ball and that’s how you play.”
Miller has had it going this whole season, especially when it comes to passing by the NBA’s all-time best distributors. He surpassed Muggsy Bogues for the 16th spot on Jan. 7, after dishing out 10 assists and 16 points to beat the Timberwolves 108-98 on the road.
In Orlando on Monday, Miller totaled 6,917 assists to tie Guy Rodgers for the 15th position. Rodgers set the Chicago Bulls’ single-season record in assists with 908 during the 1966-67 season.
Portland swept the Magic, 2-0, for the first time since 2003-04 after Miller scored 15 points, four rebounds and passed seven dimes at Amway Center.
“It is an accomplishment,” says Miller. “I have been out there playing for 12 years now to be in that category with some of the best point guards all-time is great. I do have a goal that I want to accomplish and that will come as I stay healthy.”
And what goal would the versatile Miller, a guy with the tools and knowhow to do almost anything, have up his sleeve?
“I want to finish top 10,” says Miller. “I want to play three or four more solid years then that will be my goal.”