Mitchell native Mike Miller reflects on Heat's seasonMike Miller said this year’s NBA Playoffs was one of the most stressful times in his life.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Mike Miller said this year’s NBA Playoffs was one of the most stressful times in his life.
The Mitchell native finished his first year with the Miami Heat in June, when the Dallas Mavericks surprised the basketball world and defeated the Heat in six games to be crowned NBA champions.
But besides not winning his first NBA title, Miller had to deal with injuries, team scrutiny and complications during the birth of his third child during this year’s playoffs.
It was, indeed, a stressful time for Miller.
“When you focus so much on basketball your whole life and career you start to realize, especially in those types of situations, at the end of the day, basketball is over and the most important thing is family,” Miller said Tuesday evening in his first interview with The Daily Republic since the conclusion of the season. “Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes things like that to put things in perspective, but it was tough and we dealt with it as best as possible.”
Miller — who signed a 5-year deal worth about $27 million — dealt with thumb and shoulder injuries during the playoffs. He played in 41 of the team’s 82 regular-season games, battling injuries to his thumbs, shoulder, knee and ankles. He averaged a career-low 5.6 points and 4.5 rebounds prior to the playoffs.
The former first-round draft pick sat out three games in the Heat’s five-game, first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, but played in all the team’s games against the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, netting a 12 points - his best point total in the playoffs - in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Chicago.
After the conclusion of the second game of the Eastern Conference Finals, Miller’s wife, Jennifer, was induced into labor. The couple gave birth to their third child, Jaelyn.
But the newborn struggled to breathe and had four holes in her heart, putting her in intensive care for the next 10 days. However, Jaelyn started recovering and went home with the Millers a few days before the start of the NBA Finals, about two weeks after she was born.
Miller and the Heat qualified for the championship round when they defeated the Bulls 83-80 on May 26, presumably making Miller the first South Dakota basketball player to make it to the NBA Finals.
Miller averaged 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in his first appearance in the finals during his 11-year NBA career, but the Mavericks took Games 4, 5 and 6 after the Heat held a 2-1 series lead to leave Miller and the Heat short of their season-long goal.
“Being in the finals was a great experience, but obviously it leaves a sour taste in our mouth,” Miller said. “We set out for one goal and came up short. Now, we have to refuel and, hopefully, get another chance to get it.”
Since the conclusion of the playoffs, Miller said he’s received surgery to his shoulder and his thumb.
“I’ve been trying to glue myself back together, kind of like the humpty-dumpty man right now,” Miller said. “I’ve been out since the season’s been over. It’s a little bit frustrating right now, but hopefully it will give the rest of my body a chance to heal up and take a break.”
After the Heat lost in the finals, the Heat received analysis from many sources for not winning its first NBA championship after signing the three of the biggest-name free agents earlier in the offseason. Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all decided to team together on South Beach. To introduce the new-look team, before the season started, the Heat held a celebration party, which James promised “multiple championships.”
When Miami lost in the finals, Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy told the Miami Sun-Sentinel, “If you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together.”
“There’s going to be scrutiny,” Miller said. “There was scrutiny all the way up unless we won it. We realize that, but for a team that put so many pieces together and had so many moving parts throughout the season, to get to where we were was pretty impressive. But at the end of the day, there’s no moral victories and not a whole lot of people that liked the way we put this team together, so we’re going to have to deal with that.
“Our expectations can’t get much higher than they already were. They’re not going to change. We want to win a championship. There’s no secret behind that and I think everybody realizes it.”