When the “big three” came together, news broke quickly about two other players sacrificing money in pursuit of a championship. While experts were wondering how the Miami Heat were going to fill their roster, Pat Riley was finishing his recruitment of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. The news of Haslem was exciting, but somewhat expected. The fact that a sharpshooter with the resume of Miller was going to join this superstar roster left the rest of the league scratching their head and wondering which domino was going to fall next.
It became clear that Miller saw an opportunity to play a role that he was most comfortable with. Most of his career, he was a very good player on a very bad team. In the 10 years before he joined Miami, he averaged at least double-figure points every year except one (9.9 in 2008-2009). He won Rookie of the Year in 2001 and Sixth Man of the Year in 2006 for playoff teams. However, after 10 years of being a go-to guy and never winning a playoff series, he decided to join the Heat to become a role player.
When all these moves were being announced, we didn’t know what kind of offense the Heat would be running or who would be running it. We didn’t know how LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were going to coexist or if Chris Bosh was going to be content being the third option. The one thing we knew was that Miller was going to be the piece that made it all work. He was going to spread the floor and bring energy for 25-30 minutes every game.
Fast forward three years, two titles and one amnesty later… That role that we were sure Miller was going to fill was taken over by Shane Battier and Ray Allen. He averaged a little more than 5.5 points in his 139 games for the Heat and spent almost as much time in a suit as he did in a uniform. While fans waited patiently year after year for him to get healthy and be the player they thought they were getting originally, it became more and more apparent that his body had failed him at the worst possible time. Those years of being the workhorse on bad teams had ruined his chance to play the role that he should have been playing since the day he was drafted.
Chances are the Heat would have won back-to-back titles without him being on their roster. Chances are Miller would still be searching for his first title going into his 13th season if he had opted to take more money elsewhere. One thing is for sure, Miami fans will never forget the seven threes he hit to close out the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals. For one game, Miller got to play the role the organization had envisioned him doing when they signed him. It’s a shame that it came down to money after the sacrifices he made, but it was the right decision.
The Miami Heat will go on and fill his spot with someone who can wear a nicely tailored suit on the end of the bench all year, but Miller will always wonder what could have been if his body held up and he was able to let it fly.