Few post-trade scenes have been surreal as the one with Andre Miller back in 2006, when the Denver Nuggets shipped him to Philadelphia in a swap that amounted to Miller for Allen Iverson. In the conference call with reporters, Miller admitted he was driving around Colorado on a snowy evening, considering his future in the NBA.
Miller never wanted to leave Denver. He had chosen that city as a free agent in 2003, when the Boston Celtics were coming off an Eastern Conference semifinals appearance, had money to spend and seemed to be just a true point guard away from real contention. The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan was a big fan of Miller, as he made clear in a number of his columns. Based on the franchise's fortunes in the years before the daring moves of 2007, few could argue that Miller would have brought some stability to the Celtics.
Close to a decade later, Miller is back with the Nuggets, and on Tuesday he unleashed his heady, non-athletic game on the Lakers to force a Game 6 in their Western Conference playoff series. Miller scored 24 points and handed out eight assists, answering every Lakers push with a well-timed cut or a perfectly placed pass. He managed to leave his mark despite Kobe Bryant threatening to overshadow everyone with 43 points.
Nuggets coach George Karl likes to employ something called "random offense," which is exactly what it sounds like. The play is actually a non-play, with Karl giving Miller or Ty Lawson the freedom to do whatever the hell they want. For the explosive Lawson, that may involve a pick and roll or spreading the floor for a pull-up jump shot or a drive-and-dish. For Miller, random offense typically sets up a series of cuts and screens, or if Miller feels particularly frisky, he will head into the post himself to direct the offense from the block. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has urged second-year guard Avery Bradley to use Miller as a model due to the veteran's ability to sneak into the lane for an easy layup against quicker players.
The prettiest play of Tuesday's game came in the fourth quarter, when Miller directed traffic like Peyton Manning before the snap and heaved a pass to JaVale McGee for an alley-oop dunk. Miller is the best lob-thrower in the game — better even than "Lob City" orchestrator Chris Paul — and he made the possession look like a set play. Yet Lawson told reporters that the play in question was simply a well-executed instance of random offense.
Miller is the NBA's iron man, missing six games in his 13-year career, and he has stayed effective at 36 years old partly because he has always played like he is 36 years old. Asked last season whether he had considered retirement, Miller responded, "What else would I do?"
The Celtics are now set at point guard with some guy named Rajon Rondo, who has his own knack for generating quality shots out of the most random situations. Miller is still the master of that style, though, and on Tuesday in the birthplace of Showtime, the steady, reliable point guard was nearly the most spectacular of all.