As he was being introduced alongside Shane Battier as two of the heroes who patrolled the perimeter during the Heat’s championship run, Mike Miller gingerly walked over to center stage inside AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday and leaned against the seat next to the Larry O’Brien trophy.
His bad back was the furthest thing on his mind.
“Don’t start with me. Start with this guy,” Battier told Tony Fiorentino when he was dished the first question by the Heat’s TV color analyst. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this guy playing like NBA2K [the video game] in Game 5 of the Finals.”
Although a series of injuries often didn’t allow Miller to perform like the complementary piece the Heat envisioned him being to the Big 3, the 32-year old swingman from South Dakota saved his best for the last leg of Miami’s title run.
Game to remember
In Miami’s close-out Game 5 victory over the Thunder, Miller drilled seven three-pointers in 23 minutes 14 seconds coming off the bench.
Not one. Not two. Not three.
It’s a feat that put his name in the record books for the most threes by a reserve in NBA Finals history — and a performance Heat fans will remember for a long time. He got a standing ovation from the howling home crowd when he slowly dragged himself off the floor, replaced by Battier, with 4:50 remaining in Game 5.
“I told Mike Miller he has the greatest timing in the world,” Heat owner Micky Arison said during the team’s locker-room celebration.
Asked Monday how he managed to come into the game so hot after going 0 for 3 on three-point attempts over the first four games of the Finals, Miller said: “Just let it fly, man, I let it fly. ... My job is easy as long as I can stand up straight.”
“The past four days have been awesome,” he would later say Monday. “It’s the first time I haven’t felt pain — lots of bulging disks.”
Miller has arguably the toughest decision to make of any Heat player in the coming weeks.
His bad back, which isn’t the only reason he missed 68 regular-season games during the past two seasons (foot, thumb, shoulder, ankle, hernia), will likely require surgery. He said Monday the odds he will go under the knife are “better than 50-50.”
Miller said Monday he will see a doctor about his back later this week. If he doesn’t need the surgery, he said he’s definitely interested in returning to the Heat, which still owes him $18.6 million guaranteed for the next three seasons years. If he needs surgery, retirement is a possibility.
“It will be hard to walk away,” Miller said. “But I have to make a good decision. I want to be able to play with my kids.”
Although he started just two regular-season games and averaged 19.3 minutes a game this past season, Miller improved his three-point percentage dramatically, shooting 45.3 percent (up from 36.4 percent the previous season). In the playoffs, he was 31 of 75 from three-point range (41.3 percent) and averaged 16 minutes a game.
More in the tank
The Heat considered using its amnesty clause last winter to dump Miller’s contract, but ultimately decided against it. There’s a chance the Heat could use it next season if Miller decides not to retire.
“I remember texting Coach [Pat] Riley and saying thanks for not taking me behind the barn and putting me to sleep,” Miller said. “I still got something left in me.”
The Heat will have to decide this summer if that is still true. But for now, Miller is glad the Heat didn’t give up on him, and that for the past four days his back hasn’t felt so bad.