|Andre Miller comes off the bench for the Denver Nuggets, but his career isn't over yet. (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)|
It must be a strange feeling for Andre Miller.
The 13-year NBA vet's world was quite a bit different than Ty Lawson's in 1999. Miller was the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft, going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Lawson was, well, not even 12 years old.
When Lawson was entering high school at 15, Miller was playing for the United States national team at the 2002 Men's World Championships. While Lawson was a starter at North Carolina in 2006-07, Miller was in his first stint with the Nuggets, averaging 13 points per game and career second-best 9.1 assists per game.
Now Miller is Lawson's backup (in the sense they are both labeled point guards, yet Miller and Lawson will often be in the lineup together as well), just two years removed from starting all 81 games he played in with the Portland Trail Blazers.
It's easy to say Miller is too old (being 37) and is nearing the twilight of his career. He may be close, and he may spend the majority of the time coming off the bench, but Miller is not finished yet.
Game one of this first-round series against Golden State packed as powerful of a statement as Miller could have made. Miller scored 28 points in 27 minutes, including the game-winning layup to give the Nuggets the early advantage in the series. It could have been a fluke, except he followed up the performance with 18 points in 27 minutes in game two. That's a 23 ppg average so far this postseason. Lawson is averaging 15.5. This is not to say Miller deserves the starting job (it is a small sample size to say the least) but he's not a throw-away player either.
The playoffs have not been overly kind to Miller from a team standpoint. Last season's Nuggets team that won seven playoff games is the most Miller has won in a season in nine seasons where his team reached the playoffs. Yet his play has not been the issue. In all but one season (2007-08) Miller has averaged more points in the postseason than during the regular season. Again, it's a small sample size, but it's the only way to compare. If LeBron James can be the opposite of clutch after missing one game-winner, then Miller can be a strong postseason player for improving his stats in eight of nine years.
Miller has never been a player who takes over a game with his scoring, but he doesn't pretend to be. You don't last 13 seasons in the NBA unless you can help your team, and Miller is the smart-shooting (45 percent career from the field), passing (7.1 apg for his career) and smart player (2.59 turnovers per game for his career) who can hit big shots (see Game 1) every team needs, especially at the point guard position.
It must be strange for Miller, coming off the bench for a kid who couldn't even drive when he first became a millionaire. It must be strange for Lawson to play with a guy he grew up watching. But there's something that feels right about Miller hitting the game-winning shot in a playoff game. He may be old, but he's not done yet.