Off to pursue an NBA title elsewhere in what likely is his 17th and final season, veteran point guard Andre Miller talked at length last week on Yahoo Sports’ The Vertical podcast about how pleased he is to be in San Antonio now with the five-time champion Spurs and away from a Timberwolves team that hasn’t made the playoffs since Miller was young.
A senior at Utah once upon a time, Miller used the Wolves and other teams sold on the promise of their youth as examples why he think all players should stay four years in college like he did.
On a team that started the season with veterans Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince, Kevin Martin and Miller, he criticized the franchise’s decision to rely so extensively on players not old enough to drink and suggested no goals or expectations have been communicated to players young or old.
“They’re so talented and they work so hard, and it’s like they’re getting a bad deal because you throw five 19- to 22-year-olds out there to play against men and try to compete for a playoff spot,” Miller said on the podcast. “And you want to teach them the right way, but then you throw them out there and they just get ate up. It’s not fair to them because they’re working hard in practice and then you throw them out there and let them learn like some lost puppies.
“If you don’t have a parent or somebody to teach these guys on the job … you’ve got to mix them in with the veterans and let them learn together instead of throwing them out there by themselves and allowing them to develop a losing mentality.”
Signed last summer by President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders with the intent that he and his fellow vets would finish games, Miller called a culture in which General Manager Milt Newton and interim head coach Sam Mitchell increasingly entrusted the keys to youngsters beyond No. 1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns “no competition, all entitlement.”
Mitchell said Friday before his team won in Washington for the fourth time in seven games that he hadn’t heard Miller’s comments but was told a snapshot of them.
“Unfortunately Andre feels that way, but that’s Andre’s opinion,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think we threw our guys out there. If you look at our team and you look at what really made me go to the young guys, all the young guys were leading scorers, all my young guys were leading rebounders, all my young guys were leading in assists. So just go look at the stats and if you can show me where the other guys are playing better, then I would agree with it.”
Miller said now that he’s in San Antonio, he can see why the Spurs are so successful.
“Everybody sticks together and they’re a team,” he told The Vertical. “Nobody left out. Everybody’s involved.”
The Wolves bought Miller out of his expiring veteran’s minimum contract and released him last month so he could sign with the Spurs.
“There was no way I was going to stay in Minnesota on a team that never had any goals, from what I thought,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit there and let this be my last year. There were no expectations in Minnesota with that team and which way they wanted to go. It wasn’t communicated, so I was like, ‘If this is my last year, I can’t go out like this.’ ”
Mitchell called himself “like all coaches: You want your veteran guys because they’ve been around. Our best players this year have been our young guys, and I don’t think I even have to argue that point.”
Young Wolves star Zach LaVine said he also hadn’t heard Miller’s comments.
“If we’re puppies, we’re pit-bull puppies,” he said. “Pit-bull puppies have a little bite to them.”
NBA SHORT TAKES
A weekend Wall will never forget
Six years later, Washington All-Star guard John Wall still is upset over an NCAA Elite Eight loss to West Virginia in his first and only season at Kentucky.
Wall went 7-for-18 and scored 19 points for a UK team that started four future NBA first-round picks.
“I’ll never get over it,” Wall said. “I don’t hate nothing, but I hate that. I’ll never get over that. You know you lost by six and didn’t play well. That’s a devastating thing. We played a very good team, a talented team with Da’Sean Butler and Coach [Bob] Huggins, and they had a better game for that one night and that’s all it takes.”
Less than a month ago, Wolves backup center Greg Smith played in the D League. Now he’s got Kevin Garnett talking into his ear.
“It’s a lot better,” Smith said. “Just sitting listening to him talk and how he knows the game, just by watching him, it’s going to help my career. I played him a couple of times when I was in Houston. It wasn’t a good contest. … Now I have him on my side and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Ready for prime time?
How hot are the Timberwolves? So hot that TNT dumped an L.A. Lakers-Clippers game and will show the April 5 Wolves-Golden State game instead in their 9:30 p.m. Central time slot.
OK, so maybe it has something to do with the Warriors’ pursuit of history.
The network also dumped a Chicago-Memphis game earlier that night and replaced it with the Detroit-Miami game.
WOLVES’ WEEK AHEAD
Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Phoenix. Wednesday: 7 p.m. vs. Los Angeles Clippers. Friday: 8 p.m. at Utah
All games on FSN
Player to watch: Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers
While Blake Griffin remains out since Christmas, the Clippers’ All-Star point guard keeps on keeping on, feeding J.J. Redick for a buzzer-beating winner Thursday over Portland by bouncing an inbounds pass through Blazers center Mason Plumlee’s legs with 1.1 seconds on the clock.
“I actually love the show. It’s something I’ve watched a lot.” — Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns on the team’s publicity campaign that’s pushing him for Rookie of the Year — a foregone conclusion, it would seem — with a take-off of the former game show “Cash Cab.” This one’s call “KAT Cab,” and you can see all its episodes at katcab.net.