Officially, George Karl has added only one assistant coach, Vance Walberg, to his Kings staff.
But Karl views point guard Andre Miller as another coach.
“He’s kind of my security blanket with this team because I know him and he knows me,” Karl said. “And when we get in that zone of what the hell’s going on out there, he’s the guy I go to as much as anybody.”
Miller, who turns 39 Thursday, would not mind being that guy beyond this season. The 16-year veteran, who played for Karl with the Denver Nuggets, has enjoyed his role as a mentor to the Kings’ young players.
After Karl’s hiring, the first player the Kings acquired was Miller, who came from the Washington Wizards in a trade for guard Ramon Sessions.
“Whether it’s one or two years, I’d like to stay put and finish off in California and stay close to home and then make a transition into the next part of my life,” Miller said. “Hopefully, that can work out and we finish out the season on a good note.”
On Saturday night, the Kings didn’t progress toward that goal, blowing a 21-point lead and losing to the Wizards 113-97 at Verizon Center.
The Kings ended an eight-game trip, their longest this season, with a 2-6 record. And for the second consecutive night, they surrendered a big lead. They led by 18 against Philadelphia.
Despite the absence of Rudy Gay (left knee strain), the Kings led by 18 at halftime and 21 early in the third quarter before collapsing. They also wasted another big scoring night from DeMarcus Cousins, who had 30 points before fouling out with 5:34 to play.
“This was a tough road trip in general, and every game we’ve probably played a good 30 to 32 minutes but didn’t really finish off the fourth quarter,” Miller said. “We need to put ourselves in a position to win games and we just have to figure that out.”
Karl is relying on Miller to help lead that process, putting unwavering trust in the guard.
“Andre’s the type of guy, I just give him the second unit, and say I’m gonna put Jason (Thompson) out there with you, I think (Thompson is) gonna run for you and (Miller) figures it out,” Karl said. “He’s (almost) 39 years old, but he’s a winner and I think when he’s 41 he’ll still be a winner. He knows how to win games, he knows how to lead a team, and it’s a pleasure to have him with me.”
Miller is comfortable in Sacramento. The Los Angeles native has a lot of family in the area and considers it a second home.
Karl already has leaned on Miller heavily. He averaged 12.4 minutes in 51 games with the Wizards, but he was up to 23.2 minutes with the Kings entering Saturday.
“I love Andre and he’s already helped us win a couple games,” Karl said. “Probably playing him a few too many minutes, but we’ll figure that out as we go.”
Miller said he’s fine with his workload nearly doubling.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “My wind is fine. I’m probably just a little bit sore more often. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed it.”
After this season, Miller is a free agent and could join a team closer to winning a championship. But he appears at peace with the idea of not winning a title, noting most NBA players fail to do so.
“The chances are slim, so I try to find opportunities to get on teams that I can help the young guys get better and show some leadership,” Miller said.
That makes the Kings an ideal fit. He’d be with a coach he knows well and be a leader.
“I like this team,” Miller said. “I’m looking at it as another opportunity to get a chance to prove myself in this league. At this stage, it’s still a challenge, something I’m enjoying so far.”