Let It Fly

Photo from Mike Miller's official store

 

With an amnesty clause likely on the way, some have suggested the Heat would be well-served to cut Mike Miller loose. They signed him for $25 million over 5 years last July, meaning he’ll be making $6.6 million in 2014-2015. That’s a lot for someone who posted a 9.7 PER last season, and he doesn’t even sound offended by the idea:

“If anything happens with the amnesty, this is just going to be a business decision and I can respect that,” he said. “Teams will only get one opportunity to use it. I can respect that part of it.”

Via Mike Miller Hoping Next Move Comes With Miami Heat, 11/9/11

It’s a mature, sensible answer to the question but I hope he’s mad as hell on the inside. I hope he was pissed when Miami shopped him at the deadline, too. Miller should have been the perfect fit there. His stroke is just about as pure as anyone’s on this planet. He’s shown he can drive to score, create for others, rebound, and do the little things. But not last season. Last season was a disaster.

Miller refused to take 3s unless they were wide-open, missed too many 3s that were wide-open, and didn’t commit to his drives when he put it on the floor. His attempts to be a point forward were also miserable exercises in futility.

Via Turning Up The Heat: Mike Miller, 10/10/11

Miller has to be frustrated with how he played. He has to know that, next season, Miami needs him to be aggressive. If he was thinking too much, he needs to just “let it fly” like it says on the tattoo on his back. Like he didn’t do in Minnesota, back when it was fair to call it an outlier. Like he didn’t do in Washington, before we guessed that his passivity wouldn’t be much of an issue alongside three All-Stars. Miller has to be determined to reestablish himself and prove last season could have been different if not for his continual injuries:

On October 18th, he left a preseason game against Charlotte when he sprained his left ankle. Two days later, he got his right thumb stuck in LeBron James’s jersey in practice. This caused serious ligament damage and the resulting surgery kept him out for two months. When he returned and tried to catch up with his teammates, Erik Spoelstra said it was like “trying to jump into a car going 60 miles per hour.”

Rough times continued in February in the form of a concussion and inner ear infection when he took blows to the head in three consecutive games. Then in April, he ruptured a tendon in his left thumb. In May, he bruised his shoulder fighting through a screen against the Bulls and aggravated the injury in Game 1 of the Finals, leaving the arena with his arm in a sling.

After the season, he underwent surgery on his left thumb and his left shoulder. In July, he said he was trying to glue himself back together “like the humpty-dumpty man.” Now, he says that neither thumb is bothering him.

Much more terrifying than all the physical problems was what Miller dealt with off the court — Miller managed to play his best basketball of the season in the Bulls series whilst his newborn daughter, Jaelyn, was in intensive care with four holes in her heart. You have to imagine Miller wants to put this past year behind him in more ways than one.

Trying to project Miller’s next season is difficult. On the one hand, it’s been years since he’s been the kind of threat he’s capable of being. On the other, his diverse skillset gave us reason to be extremely optimistic about his role with the Heat before just about everything went wrong. Optimistically, I want to give him a pass on last season. I hope the Heat don’t use their amnesty clause on anybody. Fortunately for Mike, they’re likely not going to find another wing player with his upside when all they can offer is the minimum and perhaps a “mini” mid-level exception. Unless the new CBA ends up being so restrictive that MIami has no choice but to slash salaries, he’ll likely stay.

In March, John Krolik said, “Miller is the clearest representation of how, despite a good record and a great point margin, the Heat simply haven’t seemed like a finished product this season.” I’d say that even after ending the season a couple of wins from a championship, they still didn’t seem like a finished product. If we are to see something close to a fully realized version of this team on a consistent basis, it should involve a liberal use of the Big 5 lineup and Miller’s production matching his salary. I’d like to see a transcendent season from the evil, evil Heat, so here’s hoping he puts it together.

Seth Carstens