Reuniting with coach George Karl in Sacramento has taken new Kings point guard Andre Miller back – in time, so to speak.
In two games with the Kings, Miller has played 23 and 22 minutes, respectively. He was averaging 12.4 minutes a game as a reserve with Washington before being traded to Sacramento last week. Last season, he averaged just under 17 minutes.
“I’d say I haven’t played this many minutes since (playing for) George in Denver (in 2012-13),” the 38-year-old Miller said Monday. “I think it’s him having a little bit of confidence in me and knowing I can still get up and down the court.
“If Tim Duncan can do it, 25, 30 minutes a game, I can do it also.”
Miller may have to do that for the time being. Darren Collison has missed the past six games with a right hip flexor strain, and his return does not seem to be imminent. On Monday, Karl said Collison is expected to fly to Los Angeles on Tuesday to see a specialist, after which the Kings will “know a lot more” about whether Collison could be out for an extended period.
Karl said he and general manager Pete D’Alessandro had discussed the possibility of bringing in reinforcements at point guard but that, “I think right now, I’d rather stay away from making another change.” Ray McCallum has started the past two games at point guard, and rookie David Stockton, signed to a 10-day contract on Feb. 20, gives some depth at the position.
But a chunk of the playing time in Collison’s absence figures to go to Miller. The veteran is familiar with Karl’s offensive concepts from having played under the coach for parts of five seasons in Denver and looked comfortable sliding into the rotation during his Kings debut on Friday (eight points, four assists in 23 minutes).
“I think someone mentioned after the first game against Boston, ‘You got a new player – and a new assistant coach,’” Karl said. “Andre in the fourth quarter … took some of the stuff I had, but he was tinkering with it; he was telling Rudy (Gay) to go some places (on the floor). That’s a luxury to have.”
Karl says his challenge with the Kings’ offense right now is to phase out the reliance on predetermined offensive sets and allow players to react freely to what’s happening on court.
“I’ve watched on film. We have all these gaps we’re not taking advantage of because they want to run the play,” Karl said. “They’re used to being yelled at for not running the play. Now they’re being yelled at for not breaking it.”
Miller embraces the open style.
“The easy thing is getting up and down the court running, knowing he wants you to just play basketball,” Miller said. “Just keep the game simple, pass to the open man. You got two guys on this team that are basically like All-Stars, elite players like DeMarcus (Cousins) and Rudy, so you throw those guys in the mix and just keep the game simple.”
The challenge for Miller is getting his body used to a new time zone and what looks like an expanded role. Miller said he thinks he’s up for “25, 30 minutes, maybe” a night even in his 16th NBA season. “It might be some times that I get a little bit fatigued,” he said. “But I think I know how to manage that.”
Off the court, the move is made a little easier by Miller’s familiarity with the Sacramento area. Miller said he has family “all over” the area – including two aunts, an uncle and a few cousins – and has made trips to visit them since he was 7 years old. One cousin, Keith Arrington, was an early guide into the basketball world for Miller.
“He was around the Kevin Johnson era, so I used to come out here and follow him and go watch him play against the college guys all around Sacramento,” Miller said. “He’s somebody who played a big role in getting me going.”
Miller, who grew up in Los Angeles, bought a home in El Dorado Hills early in his career but changed his residence to Denver when he joined the Nuggets. He said Sacramento is still “like a second home” – but he hasn’t spent the last week renewing acquaintances.
“Everybody’s going to leave me alone,” he said, smiling. “They know this is a transition time for me and my family. This is a business move, and I’m going to treat it as a rebuild – helping the franchise rebuild itself, and rebuilding myself.”
New hire – The Kings announced the hiring of Vance Walberg as an assistant coach. He was an assistant coach under Karl in Denver before spending the past two seasons on the Philadelphia 76ers’ staff.
Walberg compiled a 133-11 record in four seasons as head coach of the Fresno City College men’s basketball team before Karl hired him to help revamp the Nuggets’ offense. With Walberg’s influence, Karl said, “It became our major emphasis to attack the defense rather than trying to execute plays – just read the defensive mistakes.”
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