Interview: Blazers’ Miller opens up

Portland Trail Blazers guard Andre Miller spoke with the media following a Monday morning shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore.

On whether his mental focus is in the right place heading into Tuesday’s gam against the Miami Heat:

Yeah. Yep.

On where his mind is at:

The first month is just … with the preseason, getting used to the atmosphere. The first month, dealing with the adjustments. I mean, I’ve always been a slow first month player. And this is a new team; different role. I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses for my play, individual play. I know it can get better. The good thing is, the team is 12-7. So I take the positive out of that, team-wise. Individually, the game will get better for me as the season goes.

On his right hip:

My hip doesn’t bother me at all.

On his ankles:

My ankles are fine. I mean, they ask questions. If you’re all right. If you look sluggish. If that’s the case, everybody looks sluggish, ’cause we got blown out. So that’s not an excuse for me. I’ve played with pain, but that pain was minor. A couple of accidental twisted ankles, which was nothing. And just a hard fall. And that’s pretty much, you get over the soreness, we’ve played a lot of games the first month and we move on.

On whether he is sore at all:

No. For me, it wasn’t even like the first month of the season for me, because I’m used to being on the court and playing. So, if you look at it, I only played maybe 25-26 minutes (per game) the first month. That’s nothing for me. At least my body got a chance to rest. With the minor bumps and bruises, that’s nothing.

On whether he is more engaged in some games than others:

No. I mean, if you understand the game, certain ways in how you approach it, for my mindset is how I come off the bench and stabilize the game with the second unit — that’s my role on this team. Normally, as a starter throughout the years, you work you’re way into the game and get into a rhythm. But here, there is no rhythm for me. I have to go in and stabilize the unit. And whoever I fall in with the minutes, that’s what I have to deal with. So, I don’t think it’s not being interested. I think it’s more how the flow of the game is going. Some games you can come in and push the ball and be more aggressive and make plays here and there, depending on who you’re playing. But second unit, you have to be a little bit more cautious; of when you’re coming in the game, not having turnovers. Picking and choosing, rather than just going out there and running with your head cut off. So, it’s not that I’m not interested or anything, ’cause I’m always aware of what’s going on in the game from the bench. Anybody’ll tell you on the team, I’m involved, talking to guys. First one off the bench when guys come off the court.

On whether he wants to be in Portland:

What you mean? On the team? Yeah, I like the team. I mean, I’m not worried about nothing else. My body language, I think, is fine. My practice habits are fine. Like I said, it’s an adjustment that I’m dealing with. And I haven’t made a big fuss about it. I’m not going to say, just because things aren’t going well I don’t want to be here. I’ve been able to adjust to a lot of things besides basketball in life. So, I’m not worried about that. Things will turn out for the best.

On what he sees in the Blazers’ offensive struggles:

This is how I see it: It shouldn’t be a struggle. First of all, everybody got contracts. And we talked about it when the season started, about sacrificing as a team. It shouldn’t be about who’s going to get the ball or how you’re going to play with each other. I mean, they played well together last year and won 54 games. (The Boston Celtics’) Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett sacrificed their game, and they won a championship. I don’t see that as any different than this situation.

On whether he sees the Blazers not maximizing their offensive potential:

I don’t know. I mean, I think Greg (Oden) is playing solid right now. We’re 12-7. We played a lot of games this month. Whether they was against good teams or bad teams, you’ve got to play the games. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. We’re 12-7, and I think they’re trying to find their rhythm, and hopefully make sacrifices for the team, too.

On what he sees in the Blazers’ lack of offensive efficiency:

What I see from the bench is, last year they was efficient — and we talked about this — they was efficient; a little bit quicker as a team. And it’s my first year here. And teams are aware that Portland is a good team. This team’s not going to surprise anybody. Teams are going to come in and prepare to play this team, because it’s a talented and a good team. So, I think now, it’s just kind of methodical. Half-court basketball. (Bring) the ball down. Work the shot clock. And then get stuck with the shot clock running out. And if that’s how we want to play basketball, so that’s how the coach is stressing it.

On whether he really thinks that:

No. No. I’m saying that’s the terminology. The coaching staff says, ‘Either play early or play late.’ So, my thing is, being a point guard and observing in this league, the teams that win are the teams that get paint points, teams that get to the free throw line, and teams that force turnovers and get fast-break points. The teams that have won with the methodicalness are teams that have been together for maybe 5-6 years. The San Antonio, the Detroit — they played that half-court basketball and mixed it with paint points and forcing turnovers. Not that it wasn’t methodical, but they played well off that; they knew how to mix it together. I think for us, we’ve just got to mix it together a little bit, I think the team will be all right.

On fitting in with the team:

I feel fine. You can say I’m quiet or whatever you want to say. My leadership has always been questioned for some reason, and I don’t know why.

On whether he’s referring to past teams:

I mean, I don’t know why. I think that I’ve proved that I can lead a team. Playing with Cleveland. Playing with the (Los Angeles) Clippers. Playing with Denver. I’ve played with elite scorers. I’ve played with guys that can get up and down the court. There’s no excuse if that somebody can tell me that I don’t provide leadership; I don’t talk to players; I don’t lead by example; I don’t have good practice habits. I think with this situation and how I’m dealing with it, I’m observing. I’m observing the atmosphere; observing the coaching staff and how things work around here. And that has, for me individually, led into a slow month. I could be selfish and shoot and say I’m going to go out there and worry about my statistics. But I haven’t done that. I’m observing; figuring this team out; figuring the players out. And I do talk to the players. I don’t have to yell and bring a lot of attention to myself and all that type of stuff. I can pull a guy to the side; pull Greg to the side; talk to Rudy (Fernandez); talk to Steve (Blake); talk to Brandon. You know what I’m saying? I mean, the coaches might not see it. But it’s really not their business. I’m trying to develop a relationship with the players. And that’s what matters.

On whether he feels like he’s done everything the Blazers have asked of him, and whether anything he has done has changed:

I haven’t done anything different since I came to this team. My practice habits are the same. It’s more, for me, I’m observing more. The ball wasn’t handed to me and said, ‘Just go and run this team.’ That wasn’t the case here. I was brought here, they say, ‘Andre, you’re going to run the second unit.’ I kept it professional. That’s how I deal with it. No big fuss. I come to practice. No bad body language. … Then once I get comfortable, then everything will be fine. I’m getting comfortable with the players. I mean, it’s the first month of the season. Preseason really don’t even count. Because you say you want to play one way, and then once the season starts, you change. So, there’s going to be changes throughout the season that you’ve got to deal with. So, I’m adjusting fine. I’m not a whiner. I’m not a complainer. I haven’t gone to my agent or a coach and say, oh, this and that. I’m fine. I’ll leave it at that. I have no gripes with the coaches. No gripes with the management or the players. … I mean, it was a rocky start. But that’s a part of business. I’ve been in the league 11 years, and I’m faced with different challenges and obstacles. And that’s what I tell my son. Try to set an example. He might say, ‘Dad, you’re not playing a lot. What’s up with that? Why you coming off the bench?’ And I have to explain, you’re faced with obstacles and challenges, and you never want to be known as a whiner or a crybaby. You just deal with it, continue to work hard. Eventually things are going to work out. And that’s how you see it.

On whether his limited action in the game against the Utah Jazz was difficult to deal with:

You can’t control what the coach does. Like I said, I tell my son, you can say, ‘I want to play; I want to do this and that,’ — the coach is; there’s no point in getting into a fuss or getting worked up because the coach is always right. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to fight the system; fight the coach. He made a decision. I dealt with it. I ain’t going to be, ‘Put me back in the game.’ If anything, I try to take a positive out of it and observe the game from the sideline. Only thing, it was the first time in my career I only played six minutes in a game. But things happen. I understand the politics and the business atmosphere. I deal with it. Eighty-two games. So, that game was in the past — we were blown out since the first quarter anywhere. I can’t do nothing about it.

On several players not performing at the best of their ability:

I think everybody knows that. We talked about that on the bench in Utah. Steve came off the bench and I said, ‘None of us in rhythm.’ It ain’t nothing about pointing fingers or anything. We’ve just got to put the time in and eventually get over it. There’s not a perfect game. You’re going to have ups and downs. We have a sluggish start and that’s pretty much it. You can’t dwell on it, because then it’ll just linger and infect the team.

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