By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
Of course, it had to be overshadowed by someone else. Of course, the other soon-to-be retiree had to be someone of Kobe Bryant‘s stature. And, of course, that, meanwhile, the 40-year-old Miller is heading towards the playoffs on the not-so-talked-about veteran San Antonio Spurs.
That sounds just about right for the old school, no-nonsense recluse that Andre Miller is.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing Andre Miller off. When coming on as a guest on The Vertical’s Chris Mannix’s podcast earlier this season, Miller didn’t exactly proclaim this as his last professional season.
In the ambiguous words of the point guard himself: “It might be time to move on but I’m not gonna say that.”
But, for the record, Andre Miller turned 40 this March. If you look at the history of the league, 40s are almost uncharted territory for guards.
There’s Bob Cousy and John Long who returned for brief comebacks after missing several seasons. Coach Nat Hickey activated himself at the age of 46 for the Providence Steamrollers of the BAA in the 1940s. And, of course, there’s ironman John Stockton, playing a full season of 82 games at the age of 40.
It is within the realm of possibility that we’ll still see Miller on the court next season. But in case we don’t, there had to be a tribute to The Professor.
These are the highlights of the only 22-assist and 9-steal game in the NBA since 1983-84, per Basketball-Reference.
With the 22 and 9 mark almost reached thrice by John Stockton, Andre Miller became the only player to register such a statline after a 14-point, 4-rebound, 22-assist and 9-steal performance on December 15, 2001.
To be fair, Miller blatantly received a gift of an assist in the middle of the third quarter on a Wesley Person three. Here’s him gesturing towards Person in order to tell Lamond Murray that he needs to pass Person the ball for the long three:
Inexplicably, this was credited as an Andre Miller assist, per Basketball-Reference’s play-by-play of the game (who knows, maybe the scorekeeper felt that Murray wouldn’t have made the pass if it wasn’t for Miller’s guidance).
So that does take a bit away from my statement about this performance’s uniqueness.
Truth be told though, no one knows how legitimate are those games by Stockton either. If you read my unnecessary breakdown of Nick Van Exel’s fudged 23 assists, you know how a scorekeeper can turn 15 assists into 23.
Albeit there also are a couple of iffy assists in this game (how about Lamond Murray catching the ball, gathering and then taking a dribble for a poster dunk on Dikembe Mutombo at 0:26), overall it is a rather fair count.
(For those keeping track at home, one assist is missing from the highlight reel due to the broadcast’s “keys to the game” not being taken off the feed quickly enough)
Interestingly enough, the scorekeeper could have easily helped Miller get to a triple double during his late-game steal bonanza when The Professor created three turnovers (yet was credited with only two steals, the one at 6:35 of the video went to Murray) in the last 69 seconds of the game and almost helped the Cavs to a miracle comeback.
Despite five missed free throws by Murray and Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the last minute of the game, the Cavaliers missed two potential game-winners after being down 8 with 2:05 left.
All of it happened thanks to Andre Miller at his finest. Not a single play above (or at least on the level of) the rim was made. Just some Professor-like savvy on each assist, bucket and steal.