Acupuncture, yoga, stretching, tedious core-strength exercises. Mike Miller did it all this summer.
“Anything you can think of, I tried,” said the Heat’s reserve swingman, who catapulted himself into the hearts of Heat fans, not to mention NBA lore, during the 2012 NBA Finals.
Miller said he has “no clue” which rehabilitation technique, traditional or alternative, was the answer to solving the riddle of his faulty back.
He ended the 2012 playoffs a champion for the first time in his career, but it came at a price. He couldn’t even sit in a chair by the time it was all over. Bulging disks in his back threatened to end his career.
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Surgery was an option but one Miller didn’t want to consider until all alternatives were exhausted.
“I can’t pinpoint what worked, but something did and it refreshed me and I feel great and hopefully, knock on wood, it stays that way,” Miller said.
In the end, rest was probably what his body needed most.
On Monday, Miller said he feels better now than he has in five years. His mobility is returning. Saturday’s game against the Cavaliers offered proof, albeit in the form of two turnovers. Twice Miller was whistled for offensive fouls in the Heat’s 110-108 victory against Cleveland.
“I ain’t got no brakes,” Miller joked.
Said Dwyane Wade: “This probably is the best he’s felt in a while but, you know, I just want to see him shoot the ball. That’s all I care about. I don’t care about the rest of it.”
While Miller isn’t about to make of habit of slashing to the basket, he says it’s nice to once again have that option if defenders crowd him on the perimeter. Miller’s health always seems to be a delicate thing, but his current form might come in handy for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Thursday against the Spurs.
Miller has taken a back seat to Ray Allen as the team’s sixth man, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Miller’s value to the team has been diminished. With Shane Battier likely out with a sprained knee ligament, Miller’s resurgence gives Spoelstra the option of inserting him into the starting lineup without disrupting the rhythm of the Heat’s second unit.
“He’s way better than he was last year, but with our team, minutes don’t come as much as I’m sure he would like — and we would like to even see him out there,” Wade said.
Miller is averaging fewer minutes per game compared with last season, but he has already made three starts, which is one more than his total number of starts in his first two seasons with the Heat. Starting Miller on Thursday would allow Allen to remain in his current role. Allen is averaging 12.8 points per game off the bench and shooting 52.9 percent from three-point range.
“I’m ready to play,” Miller said. “My game, I’m starting to be able to do the things I used to be able to do, off the dribble and shoot.”
Spoelstra has other options as well, including starting Udonis Haslem at center against Spurs center DeJuan Blair. That would leave Chris Bosh matched up against Tim Duncan, who is the Western Conference’s reigning Player of the Week.
The Spurs (12-3) have won the first four games of their six-game road trip and play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. When they roll into Miami on Thursday for the second game of a Florida back-to-back, the Spurs will have played three games since Sunday. Meanwhile, the Heat (10-3) won’t have played since Saturday.
“I don’t feel sorry for them at all,” Wade said. “The schedule, it all evens out. We had our tough run, and we’ve got another one coming up. Our job is to just come out and be ready for one of the toughest teams in the league that plays very good on the road.”