Bill Hupp is a freelance writer living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter.
There was a sighting in Miami last night, a tall, gangly, tattooed white male who had been reported missing since last October 26.
Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls, however, Mike Miller began to justify the five-year, $30 million contract he inked last summer, finally providing the Heat with what Miami fans had long hoped for. He shot 5 of 8 from the field in 26 minutes off the bench, made a couple of treys, and finished with 12 points — nine of the which came in the fourth quarter — and nine rebounds.
Miller is a cold-blooded sharpshooter with passable athleticism, a rhythm player who relies on consistent playing time and shot attempts to make his mark on a game. But last night he played aggressive and confidently, looked smooth and comfortable shooting the ball, which has been an infrequent occurrence for him during this injury-plagued season.
The 6-foot-8 veteran didn’t appear until January after he had pre-season thumb surgery on his right hand, then hurt his left thumb and sprained an ankle just before the playoffs. He has had to learn how to play with braces on both thumbs, injuries that the Miami Herald reported will most likely require surgery once the season concludes.
After playing in just half of the Heat’s regular season contests, Miller had averaged less than five minutes per game of playoff basketball through the first 11 games, not even appearing in the final three of the opening round against the Sixers. He was just 1-10 from beyond the arc and had scored seven points total in the playoffs before last night. Of course, sometimes there are other factors at play. Unseen ones like being unable to sleep while your newborn child (daughter Jaelyn) is lying in an ICU dealing with complications, as Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post reported on Twitter last night.
Regardless, Miller stepped to the fore last night. In addition to his 12 and 9, he didn’t commit a turnover and even chipped in a steal and an assist. He has averaged 19 minutes per game since Game 2, and while he may not be 100 percent healthy, he might now just be good enough to matter again.