It’s a scenario as old as the NBA.
Veteran Player, probably with diminishing skills, gets a new coach. New Coach, looking to the future instead of being committed to someone from the past, doesn’t use the veteran player. Veteran Player, feeling undervalued and underappreciated, lashes out at the new coach. New Coach moves on.
It happened in Utah two years ago with Raja Bell and Tyrone Corbin.
It happened again last week in Denver, although the name of the unhappy player who confronted his coach had to shock anyone who has followed his career:
Yes, that Andre Miller.
One of the greatest players in University of Utah history — as well as one of the most well-liked and respected — challenged the Nuggets’ rookie head coach, Brian Shaw, on the bench during a 114-102 loss to Philadelphia at Pepsi Center.
The situation seemed totally out of character for Miller, who often speaks to reporters so softly that they have to strain to hear him. In many ways, his demeanor while doing his job is John Stockton-like: icy, stone-faced and focused.
After Miller’s confrontation with Shaw, the Nuggets announced he would be suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team. It was probably the first time in his career Miller has been accused of failing to put his team first, or don’t you remember the way he quarterbacked Utah through a gantlet of college super-powers on its way to the championship game in the 1998 NCAA Tournament?
Miller, 37, has always been there for his team.
He has played all 82 games nine times during his 15-year NBA career. He’s never missed more than two games in any season. When Shaw decided not to use Miller against the 76ers, it snapped his consecutive games-played streak at 239.
Back to the incident.
After the game, Shaw said, “There’s a time and place for everything. In the middle of the arena in front of everyone … I just tried to calm it down.”
The next day, the Nuggets announced Miller’s suspension had been rescinded — saving him some money. But Denver officials also said Miller would stay away from the team for a few days for “personal reasons.”
Miller still hasn’t rejoined the Nuggets, however, and isn’t likely to do so.
The Nuggets are trying to trade him.
Miller has probably played his last game in Denver, where only last season coach George Karl called him one of his all-time favorite players and ranked him as one of the top 10 points guards in history.
In Shaw’s defense, Miller forced his new coach’s hand.
His productivity has decreased and he certainly wasn’t helping the Nuggets win games. Their loss to Philadelphia was their fourth straight and Denver appeared to be dropping out of the Western Conference playoff race. Shaw had to do something, and benching Miller, regardless of his borderline Hall of Fame career, was one of his most logical options.
It’s worked, too.
With Miller out of the rotation, away from the team and being dangled as trade bait, the Nuggets have surged. They bring a five-game winning streak to EnergySolutions Arena on Monday night.
As Shaw told the Denver Post last week, one player doesn’t stop the train from moving forward in the NBA.
It’s just too bad, in this case, that a player/person like Andre Miller has to be the guy who is run over.