Mike Miller has two notable words for the Miami Heat organization when he enters American Airlines Arena for shoot around Friday morning.
“Thank you,” the Memphis Grizzlies swingman said prior to the team’s light workout Thursday afternoon at its practice facility.
To get a clear indication of why Miller is so appreciative of Heat management, look no further than what has transpired in his career in recent years. Miller’s 14 NBA seasons include three years in Miami, a stint by which the 34-year-old veteran will remember for the rest of his life.
Miller was a member of the Heat squad that has won consecutive NBA championships and is a heavy favorite to three-peat this year.
Come Friday night, moments before the Grizzlies face the Heat at 6:30 CST, Miller will receive his second championship ring.
For Miller, a former University of Florida star, while he contends that Friday’s pregame presentation likely won’t give way to him being overcome by emotions, he said acquiring his second ring will prompt him to relish the memories he established during his brief tenure at South Beach.
Signed by the Grizzlies weeks after the Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in seven games for the franchise’s third NBA title, Miller played for Miami from 2010-2013. His three seasons with the Heat are comprised of 139 appearances, including 58 postseason outings. In addition, he made 21 starts, including 17 last year during which he averaged 15.3 minutes per game.
Arguably his grandest moment in a Heat uniform came during the 2012 NBA Finals against Oklahoma City when Miller scored 23 points on the strength of an NBA Finals record seven three pointers.
Miami went on to defeat the Thunder in five games, giving Miller his first championship.
In assessing his brief stint in Miami, Miller said among the things he deemed mostly intriguing was playing alongside four-time league and two-time Finals MVP LeBron James.
“It was a lot of fun,” Miller said. “To see how hard he worked was humbling. And to be a part of what he was doing was exciting. So it was a lot of fun, made your job a lot easier. I missed that part of it for sure.”
As for collecting more championship hardware before squaring off against his former teammates, Miller said more than anything, he hopes the much-anticipated exchange will inspire a Grizzlies team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals last year.
“I think more than anything, it makes you hungry,” Miller said. “Once you get a taste of it…it’s actually worse than not winning it at all. My whole goal now is to find a way to get another one. I know it’s not going to be easy because I realize how hard it was just to get (to the NBA Finals) the last three years. And winning it was definitely hard. So it’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely a mission of mine.”
If nothing else, Miller said the Grizzlies, after coming one round short of the NBA Finals last year, should view his pregame ring presentation as motivation, of sorts, as they continue to lobby for a playoff spot for a fourth consecutive year.
“They should be,” Miller said. “I think if they’re not, there’s something wrong. I feel it’s everybody’s goal to do that. You know, making the Western Conference Finals is a heckuva accomplishment. Just having that success should put a taste in their mouths to want to win a championship. But to make it to that next step, to the (NBA) Finals is harder, and winning a championship, it’s even harder than that.”
As Miller tells it, that he’s receiving his second championship ring Friday couldn’t have come at a better time now that he’s back with the Grizzlies (40-27), who currently own the seventh spot in the West with 15 regular-season games remaining.
It’s a great timing for this because it will inspire them,” Miller said. “Like I said, it’s the whole reason everyone’s out here. It’s the whole reason we put in all the hours now, to win at any level. When you see the championship and how it affects you as a person and player can only help.”
Come Friday night, the Mitchell, South Dakota native will not only show gratitude to his former employer for three memorable years, but he will be afforded the luxury of basking in championship glory.