A lot of strange facts come up when you research Andre Miller's career.
For instance, did you know the 38-year-old point guard, who was traded to the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline last month, is ninth on the all-time list for career assists? The only players ahead of him: John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas and Gary Payton. And then there's this: Miller, who has played for seven different teams in his career, lost nine straight first-round playoff series before finally making it to the second round for the first time last year when the Wizards defeated the Bulls in round one.
Then there are the quirks: Miller -- in an era of excessive self promotion -- is nowhere to be found on social media. Not Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. "Maybe a fan page that they set up for you," Miller said when asked about his online presence. He ties his shoes around his ankles in a knot and has always taken it very easy during the offseason, a time when players work to add new moves to their game, and to work themselves into shape for training camp. Miller has his own routine.
"I don't like to burn myself out in the summer," Miller said prior to last Tuesday's game against the Knicks. "I don't start playing pick-up ball and getting myself into rhythm until mid-August. It's just more important to let my body rest. No matter what you do in the summer, you're still not going to be in basketball shape [at training camp]. You have to figure out what works best for you individually. I found this routine in my third or fourth year and have stuck to it since."
The results speak for themselves. In his third season, Miller led the league in assists per game. He's also demonstrated a remarkable level of consistency. Miller averaged double digits in scoring his first 12 seasons in the league and has missed just a handful of games in his career due to injury. Don't confuse his limited basketball activity in the offseason for a lack of worth ethic. Miller is known for being notoriously obsessed with studying game film. After the game, he's usually the first to get showered and dressed and out the door as the media waits to speak with the stars on the team. He clocks in, does his job, then clocks out, a business-like manner that's earned him the respect of teammates and coaches around the league, if not the notoriety that most players at his position have earned through highlights and quotes.
Miller's role is a bit different now. He's no longer a starter, and he admits he is putting in extra work during the season so he's ready to contribute whenever his number is called. It may be called more often now that starting point guard Darren Collison could be out for the season after surgery to repair a core muscle. Miller has averaged 22.9 minutes in nine games since being traded to Sacramento, an uptick from the career-low 12.9 minutes he played in 51 games with Washington earlier this year.
The Kings are on their third head coach this season and are well out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. So, the rest of this year is about developing the young core of the team, led by DeMarcus Cousins. In this regard, Miller's leadership will help. Miller, who is from Los Angeles, has called Sacramento "a second home" and wants to return to play at least one more season. He doesn't credit anyone specific for his leadership role ("I did a lot of observing as a rookie, to see how guys prepared and conducted themselves," Miller said), but true to his overall style, he is not one to yell and shout to get his point across.
"Lead by example," Miller said. "People consider a leader as someone who is vocal, who gets on guys. But there's a certain way to approach these young men, who are coming in from college and from all different types of backgrounds. You have to learn how to deal with their personalities. What buttons to push, what buttons not to push. I'll pull a guy to the side if I have any specific advice. I think that's fair. Just treat everyone with respect and expect the same."
Another reason why Miller's name stays under the radar is because he plays what some people called an "old man game." Miller admits to being a throwback, and most of his highlights involve him showing off his savvy post-up game, pulling off pick-up game moves on professional basketball players. It won't get anyone up off their seats. But you'll chuckle, nod and respect his style. Of course, the point guard position has evolved since Miller came into the league in 1999. These days, it's strange to see someone with Miller's grounded style go up against younger players at his position.
"They're coming in way more polished now," Miller said. "In my era, we had maybe three or four point guards, if that, who would shoot the three with any consistency. If the three-pointer wasn't open, it was most likely a bad shot. Now, you've got guys like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook, these guys are great shooters."
Miller calls Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant the toughest players he's had to guard in his career. Iverson was relentless, while Kobe "basically wanted to cut your throat off every time he stepped on the court."
Throughout his career, Miller has played a sidekick role wherever he's gone. He teamed up with a young Carmelo Anthony in Denver. In Portland, he played alongside Brandon Roy. In Washington, he played as a veteran backup to John Wall. The list goes on. When you win one playoff series in your career and play for seven different teams, it's hard to leave any lasting memories, even if you've consistently done your job no matter where you've gone. The Kings won't be championship contenders next season, but Miller is fine with what he's accomplished and where he's at. There are no plans to chase any rings or to convince people that he's in fact one of the best point guards to have played the game.
"My goals are being met," Miller said. "I've had longevity. I think I'm one of the best players in terms of being able to deal with personalities and egos as a point guard. Every player I've played with I've helped make them matter, and help them mature and become a better player in this league. I think that's what I would consider what a superstar should do: to make guys around you better."