SAN ANTONIO -- Guard Andre Miller became a San Antonio Spur while on a Minnesota Timberwolves flight from Toronto to New Orleans and didn’t learn of his fate until the plane touched down at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
“When I landed, one of my teammates said, 'congratulations,'” Miller recalled.
Coincidentally, that teammate was current Spurs target Kevin Martin.
While it’s unknown whether Miller will actually log minutes Wednesday, when San Antonio returns home to play at the AT&T Center for the first time since Feb. 6, coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t anticipate any potential hiccups with the new addition adjusting to life on a new team or the Spurs' way of basketball.
“He doesn’t even need that. His basketball IQ is off the charts, as you mentioned,” Popovich said. “What a pro: tough-minded, disciplined. He’ll pick up things very quickly. But he doesn’t need to know everything that Manu [Ginobili] knows right now because we’re going to run those things for Manu and Kawhi [Leonard] and Tony [Parker], for LaMarcus [Aldridge]. He’s picked up, already from yesterday and this morning, a lot. He’ll be fine.”
Miller took part in his first Spurs practice on Sunday and worked out with the team Monday in preparation for Wednesday’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons. Popovich conceded he's admired Miller from afar over the years, thinking, “Boy, I can figure out how to fit him in.” Now the coach no longer has to fantasize.
Miller, 39, ranks No. 9 in NBA history in total assists (8,495). He was averaging 3.4 points and 2.2 assists while hitting 62.1 percent of his shots from the field in 26 games before the Timberwolves waived him Feb. 25.
“I kind of chalked it up as I thought I’d finish the season in Minnesota. I didn’t get traded. I was like, ‘Just prepare to be professional and finish the season off in Minnesota,’” Miller said. “I didn’t know about the buyout situation as far as you had to do it before March 1. I didn’t know anything about that. So it happened. I’m excited to come to an organization with a lot of tradition and a work ethic.”
Miller entered the league as the No. 8 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999. He has played for eight teams in 17 years, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Philadelphia, Portland, Washington and Sacramento.
“He’s one of the best point guards the last 10-15 years, very solid. Nobody mentions him over the years, but he’s always been a starting point guard running his teams very well,” Parker said. “I think it’s a great addition to our team -- brings more guys that can create. He’s a great passer. If we do a deep run in the playoffs, you never know what can happen, especially with Manu being hurt. We don’t know how he’s going to come back. I think off the bench, he’s just a great guy to have. He’s had some pretty good games against us over the years. I’m just happy we picked him up. I think it’s just great to have a veteran, especially in the playoffs. He’s very good. He creates matchup problems on post-ups. He’s got a lot of good moves. So I’m happy I don’t have to defend him anymore.”
The addition of Miller gives the Spurs the two oldest active players, according to STATS. Miller turns 40 on March 19, followed by Tim Duncan on April 25.
Parker joked that Duncan, formerly the oldest Spur, now has “got a buddy with him.”
As for Miller, the veteran expressed surprise regarding the move to San Antonio but is thankful for the opportunity to play for one of the NBA’s top franchises.
“I’m still kind of shocked because as an older player, you play against these guys for a long time and know the tradition here. Just to come over here is kind of shocking,” Miller said. “So I’m still dealing with it right now. I’m excited. I have a lot of respect for these guys from just playing against them for all these years. So at this point in my career, you want to find a team where you can enjoy a playoff run. A lot of guys don’t get that opportunity. I haven’t had that opportunity. It’s here. So I just want to take it one day at a time.”