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CLIPPER REPORT

Miller's Stay Short and Anything but Sweet

November 07, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — Andre Miller and the Clippers were not a good fit.

And just in case that wasn't evident to anyone during the Clippers' nightmarish 2002-03 season, it was made plain over the summer through the words and deeds of the team and its former starting point guard.

Though Miller had led the NBA in assists while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers only a year earlier, the Clippers couldn't wait to show him the door.

And Miller, escaping his hometown, happily ran right through.

"I'm going to look back at last year and say it was the worst place I ever played," the former Verbum Dei High standout told Sports Illustrated after signing a six-year, $51-million free-agent contract with the Denver Nuggets in July.

Clipper management has mostly bitten its lip, preferring to let the disappointing numbers -- Miller's assists fell from 10.9 to 6.7 per game last season, his field-goal percentage to a career-low 40.6 -- speak for themselves.

Of course, the Clippers might have more to say on the topic if they'd had a backup plan in place when they jettisoned Miller. They could have retained the restricted free agent if they'd matched the offer sheet he signed with the Nuggets.

Instead, they made a play for free agent Gilbert Arenas. But when the Washington Wizards made a better offer, the Clippers were left without a proven point guard.

Miller, meanwhile, has helped the Nuggets to a 3-2 record as they prepare for tonight's game against the Clippers in the Pepsi Center.

Though his assists are down by almost half again, his field-goal percentage has fallen to 37.3 and he is sharing time at the point with 5-foot-5 Earl Boykins, he is averaging 13.4 points and 3.0 assists.

And he can't wait for tonight.

"Yeah, it means a lot to win -- win by a lot," he said this week. "Obviously, you want to beat the ex-team. You want to go out there and make an impression."

The impression he made last season, of course, was not good.

Seen as the missing piece for a Clipper team that had barely missed the playoffs a season earlier, he was obtained in a trade that sent Darius Miles to the Cavaliers. But Miller didn't live up to the high expectations, dismissed as too quiet and passive on a rudderless team derided for its selfishness during a 27-55 season.

"I think his style of play didn't really fit our team," guard Quentin Richardson said, "and I don't think we really tried to change anything to fit his style. Sometimes it's tough to play at home too. Maybe that had something to do with it."

Whatever the reason it didn't work, it's behind them now. And the Clippers continue their search for a point guard they can embrace.

*

TONIGHT

at Denver, 6 PST, Fox Sports Net 2

Site -- Pepsi Center.

Radio -- KXTA (690/1150).

Records -- Clippers 0-2, Nuggets 3-2.

Record vs. Nuggets (2002-03) -- 3-1.

Update -- With victories over the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings, the Nuggets are 2-0 at home. Rookie Carmelo Anthony is averaging a team-high 13.8 points and 5.6 rebounds but has made only 32.4% of his shots.

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