Fourteen long, sturdy years.
That's how long Andre Miller has made his mark on the NBA. Selected 8th overall by the Cavaliers in the 1999 NBA Draft, he's found himself with five different squads (Cavaliers, Clippers, Nuggets, 76ers, Blazers, and Nuggets again) over the course of his career, including two stops in Denver. Andre has played a complete 82 game season nine times in his 14 year career and at one point played in 632 consecutive games (from January 24th, 2003 to December 8th, 2010) - and would have extended that streak further, had he not been suspended after retaliating to a Blake Griffin cheap shot. He makes Andrew Bynum look like Mr. Glass. His durability makes the term "Ironman" seem inadequate. He's been a steady rock for four of six seasons he's played with this team, and has been a veteran to look to for many young players which have come and gone with the Nuggets.
Andre's never been one to push his body beyond its limits, either during the regular season or the offseason.
"I have no regimen," Miller says. After the season ends, so does Miller's working out -- no weights, no cardio, no nothing. "I really don't pick up a basketball."
"(My diet) isn't healthy at all," Miller says. "Hamburgers, hot links on the Fourth of July, all that."
While his "regimen" seems to provide him with a Terminator-like durability, it also doesn't do him many favors on a team that has always thrived on athleticism. At 37 years old, Miller runs the floor like he's got a piano strapped to his back while wading through butterfat. His individual defense on the perimeter is largely nonexistant, and if you ask him to run around chasing a young, speedy point guard, it won't be pretty. His game was antithetical to the run-run-run of George Karl's system. He couldn't keep up playing defense with that tempo if he was 26, much less 36.
Yet despite being one of the least athletic, slowest players in the NBA - throughout his career - Andre has endured. The mood in Denver toward him began to sour, however, after he was burned repeatedly by Stephen Curry in the playoff series against the Warriors. Lately, there have been growing calls for Andre to be included in a trade, with more than a few seeing Nate Robinson's presence as a sure sign of the end of Dre's tenure with the Nuggets. Like a certain disposable superstar who played for this team, much of the goodwill towards Dre has faded as younger, flashier replacements come to town.
To me, the royal "we" of Nuggets fans seem sadly overeager to ship Dre out, like a piece of faulty IKEA furniture. Frankly, he was badly misused in the series against the Warriors. He played 2,151 minutes in 82 games in one of the most uptempo systems in the NBA last season, but people seem surprised that he was unable to stay with a top-tier speedy point guard, 12 years his junior, in a six game series. The fact that Karl repeatedly asked him to guard Curry speaks volumes more to the stubborn recalcitrance of George Karl to adjust than it does to the abilities of Miller.
On a squad which just picked up two more of the NBA's most athletically gifted players, undervaluing a player who can throw lob and outlet passes like Peyton Manning hitting a fade route is shortsighted. Drew Garrison's fantastic article describes how Andre remains one of the best passers in the NBA, and he can be relied upon night in and night out to orchestrate the Nuggets' offense. Brian Shaw's increased focus on a slowed-down game with more post play should be a perfect catalyst for Dre's game, who is one of the sneakiest guards in the league on the low block. You can't help but smile as you watch him back down in the post, and with a series of the least athletic head fakes and ball fakes you've ever seen, somehow get the ball onto the glass and into the net.
If this reads like Miller apologia, it should. This is the mystery of Andre Miller: managing always to be quietly effective despite the warts to his game. In return, he's bounced around the NBA and somehow the Nuggets have been lucky enough to end up with him twice. There's still a lot of gas left in Andre's tank, and I am dubious as to the Nuggets being able to send him out and get equal value in return. While he will definitely find himself giving up time to Robinson, he can still contribute in a very meaningful way to this team, even in limited minutes.
Miller's always baked his (very reasonably priced) bread through a high basketball IQ, and his preternatural passing ability. On a team featuring Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson, Robinson and JaVale McGee, that seems like a worthwhile commodity to retain.
For a little reminder of what Andre brings to the table, watch the video below:
Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets Lobs for days (via Drew Garrison)