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The Bleacher Bums: January 21, 2009 Archive

Mind games

Posted at 9:38 AM on January 21, 2009 by Chris Dall (1 Comments)

Before the NBA season began, I offered up the suggestion that one of the keys to an improved Timberwolves squad would be Mike Miller, who came from the Memphis Grizzlies with the reputation as a sharpshooter who would help open up the floor and relieve some of the scoring burden on Al Jefferson. After watching him in a preseason game, I was convinced his shooting and passing skills could make the Wolves far better than last year's team.

I couldn't have been more wrong in that assessment.

Whether it's the result of two early-season ankle injuries or a shooting slump, Miller has been a huge disappointment. The 9 points a game he's putting up is 5 off his career average, and more significantly, the 40% career three point shooter is now hitting only 33% from beyond the arc. Early in the season it seemed like Miller was deferring to his teammates too much, opting to pass the ball even when he had open looks at the basket. He's still doing that, but he's also missing too many of the open shots he takes. And let's just say he doesn't make up for that with his defense.

There was a moment in last night's loss to the Jazz that suggested to me, and Wolves analyst Jim Peterson, that Miller might be going through more than just a slump. Late in the game Miller went to the foul line and missed both free throws. Now that happens a lot in the NBA, even to the good free throw shooters, but it was the way Miller missed the shots that stood out. He appeared to be trying to guide both shots into the net, with the type of deliberative effort you see from Shaquille O' Neal, or someone who's never shot free throws before. It was odd.

Is Miller getting the yips? Is he suffering from the type of mental block that prevented Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch from being able to perform the routine task of throwing the ball to first base? I'm certainly not qualified to answer that, but right now the former Sixth Man of the Year is a far different player than the one Timberwolves fans thought they were getting. He's kind of like the Wolves version of Delmon Young.

Then again, the Timberwolves acquiring a player who isn't as good as advertised is nothing new.

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