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MIAMI (AP) — Mike Miller tried a 3-pointer as he headed off the practice floor Sunday and didn’t mind that it missed badly.
For the Miami Heat forward, just being back on the floor is enough these days.
After two injury-filled seasons, Miller insists he’s feeling better and stronger these days, as the reigning NBA champion Heat settle into the opening days of training camp. He still walks slightly hunched, partly because of ongoing back issues, and his stride maybe isn’t as smooth as it once was. Still, Miller is out there, which is more than some people expected after seeing him labor a few months ago.
“It’s a testimony of him doing the rehab that was required for him to be here and be ready for camp,” Heat forward and NBA MVP LeBron James said Sunday. “Mike is a warrior. We know that. We know what he’s been through the first two years he’s been here. He’s doing more than I expected at this point. He’s out here; he’s ready. He’s looking good, and that’s good for him.”
Good for the Heat, too. In case they need a reminder of what Miller can do, they need only to pull up the video of last season’s title-clinching game.
Even with James posting a triple-double, Miller stole the show in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City last June, scoring 23 points — on 7-for-8 shooting from 3-point range — in just 23 minutes off the bench, ensuring that he would finally get his first championship ring.
By then, the speculation was in full effect. Would he retire? Would the Heat use their amnesty provision on him?
The answer simply was that he would take a couple weeks off, start working with Miami surgeon Dr. Barth Green to strengthen his core, and see steady improvement. And by mid-July, Miller was already telling anyone who would listen that he’d be back this season.
“It’s part of the business as far as health concerns, as far as financial obligations,” said Miller, whose 1,351 career 3-pointers are 24th-most in NBA history. “It’s part of it. But I was going to give everything I had to get back, and it’s good right now. That’s the whole key.”
The Heat are going to be somewhat cautious with him during camp, though coach Erik Spoelstra said Miller “did everything” with the team Sunday.
“It’s just the amount of time,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t want him going over two hours. He went about an hour and 15 (minutes) and then we put him on the bike, but he was doing everything, full contact.”
A big challenge for Miller comes next week — an 18-hour-or-so flight to China, where the Heat will be headed for two preseason games against the Los Angeles Clippers. Long flights and balky backs typically aren’t a great combination.
“I am a little concerned about that,” Miller said. “It’s going to be tough, but that’s the way it is and we’ll deal with it.”
That’s sort of been his mantra for two years. Things happen, deal with them. He’s had at least four surgeries since joining the Heat, and dealt with thumb, shoulder, knee and other problems — not to mention the ongoing back pain.
But he’s still here, even after hearing all the whispers last season that he was done.
“I’m pretty much doing everything,” Miller said. “I’m trying to limit myself in taking contact, but a lot of the conditioning stuff I’m able to do, limited contact and just getting out of there when it hurts too much, getting out of there before it hurts too bad. Hey, I’m practicing. That’s all I want to do right now is get through it and see how I maintain it.”
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