DENVER - George Karl must have felt like he had stepped into the Bizarro NBA. Last season, upon taking over as coach of the Denver Nuggets, he asked Andre Miller to shoot the basketball more. Miller refused. “We’ve gotten in arguments about shooting the open shot, taking more post-ups, and he says, ‘Well, it’s a team thing — if the team needs me, I’ll do it, but if the team doesn’t need me, I want the team to operate first,’” Karl said. “I don’t even talk to him anymore about scoring. I know he’s going to figure it out.” It’s what Miller does best. The seventhyear point guard is a basketball chameleon, adapting to his on-court surroundings as needed. When necessary, he can take over offensively. When his teammates need the ball, he’ll distribute and fade into the background. In a January game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Miller scored 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nuggets to victory. And last month, with his teammates struggling in the first half of a game against the Chicago Bulls, Miller was aggressive early and scored 13 points before halftime. Conversely, Miller took just 15 shots in back-to-back January victories over the Celtics and Pacers but had a combined 24 assists. “That’s how it is with some point guards,” Miller said. “Sometimes you have to be a scorer, sometimes you have to be a playmaker. “A lot of times the scoring’s going to be inconsistent because you’ve got to get other people involved and make a lot of plays for other people. So I don’t really worry about the scoring. I just try to at least have some rebounds and make plays for other people.” While his scoring might seem inconsistent, Miller’s oncourt performance has been one of few constants during an up-and-down Nuggets’ season. Denver seems to have a different starting shooting guard every night, a new frontcourt injury every week, and it recently followed a seven-game winning streak by losing six of seven. But Miller — the only regularly playing Nugget who has not missed a game this year — has been quietly consistent. “He’s the rock,” shooting guard Greg Buckner said. “Calmed-down, steady guy who’s going to make sure that everything’s under control — in his control. He’s going to make sure he does it the right way, and he doesn’t have to be the focal point of attention.” Part of the reason Miller often goes unnoticed is his laidback style. He won’t dunk with an exaggerated swing off the rim or pound his chest after a jump shot in a critical situation. He looks almost sleepy sometimes, shuffling up the court and nonchalantly tossing no-look alley-oop passes to teammates. “He’s real deceptive,” Los Angeles Clippers point guard Shaun Livingston said. “You just look at him, and you don’t really think he’s all that fast, you don’t think he’s quick. But he’s deceptively quick, deceptively long, he gets his shot off, and he knows how to run the team, which he’s been doing for years. . . . He plays the game right, you know what I mean? He knows how to play.” Heading into today’s game against Memphis, Miller was averaging 8.4 assists — fifthbest in the league — with 4.6 rebounds and 14.1 points per game on 46-percent shooting. All those numbers are above his career averages. But the workmanlike Miller often plays fifth-fiddle behind highscoring Carmelo Anthony, defensive presence Marcus Camby, volatile but exciting Kenyon Martin and crowd favorite Earl Boykins. Not only did Miller not make the Western Conference All-Star team, he wasn’t even mentioned as a notable “snub.” “I don’t even care,” Miller said. “I’m just trying to stay consistent. That’s about it. Stay healthy, and I think if I’m on the court I can make a lot of things happen.” One of the most important things Miller makes happen is laughter. Karl calls him “a quiet comedian.” Miller’s sense of humor has been needed more than ever this season with the Nuggets failing to live up to preseason expectations and making news for receiving suspensions and fines. “He does some of the craziest things that you’d never think a guy 30 years old would still be doing,” Buckner said. “He tries to do it to make us laugh, to try to keep us off edge.” On the court, his teammates and coaches have few complaints. “I trust him in his instincts to win basketball games,” Karl said. “And I think that’s why we play the game, and that’s why I respect him and like him so much.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0365 or email@example.com
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