July 19, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
– “What happens here, stays here” is the popular tagline introduced by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and has taken on a life of its own since being introduced in 2003.
Daniel Miller is willing to waive the vow of silence the slogan promises when it comes to how he’s spending his summer in “Sin City.”
Actually, he’s hoping people, i.e. NBA players, coaches and executives, will be talking about him.
Miller has spent the last week in Vegas after earning an invitation to play with the Washington Wizards’ Summer League Team, which is participating in the 24-team tournament being played at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, both on the UNLV campus. The Wizards were his first choice as well.
“I had worked out for a lot of teams this summer and I had a pretty good workout with them. They let my agent know they were interested,” said Miller, a four-year starter at center for the Jackets, who also worked out for the Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets. “I chose them from among a couple of other teams. I figured this was the best one for me.”
It’s definitely a foot in the door for Miller, who went undrafted in the recent NBA Draft.
“He’s got a great opportunity with them,” said Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory. “They’re obviously a team that’s on the rise. Randy Wittman did a tremendous job with that young team last year. They were fun to watch in the playoffs. I think Daniel does fit their style.”
Miller admits that there was a lot of information thrown at him and the team early on, as they had less than a week to prepare before flying to Vegas for last Saturday’s opener. But the group got through two-a-days the first two days and absorbed as much information as it could. The team came together quickly, finding common ground in their common goal.
“Everybody here is trying to do the same thing. Everybody wants to win and we’re going to do the best we can to do it together,” he said. “Everybody seems to get along. We don’t have too many plays. We have set plays, we have some transition plays and some out-of-bounds plays. It was a little tough at first when they threw it all at us but everybody seems to understand it now. They’re a running team, so transition is important.”
The Wizards finished 4-0 in the tournament heading into Saturday night’s quarterfinal game against the San Antonio Spurs. They started by walloping the Atlanta Hawks last Saturday, then beat the Minnesota Timberwolves before taking two from the Miami Heat. The Wizards have been led by the Summer’s leading scorer, and a familiar face to Miller, former Yellow Jacket, Glen Rice, Jr., who is scoring 22.5 ppg.
“It’s great. He’s a helluva player,” Miller said. “He’s a great rebounder. He can score in many different ways so it’s always fun to have a player like that playing with you.”
Miller played in the team’s first two games, scoring six points on 2-for-3 shooting, and 2-for-2 from the line. grabbing a rebound and handing out an assist in nine minutes. His playing time has been limited with Washington giving the majority of time in the post to Otto Porter, the team’s first-round draft pick (No. 3 overall) in 2013, Daniel Orton, a former University of Kentucky Wildcat and 2010 first-round pick (No. 29 overall) of the Orlando Magic and Khem Birch, the two-time defensive player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference and a former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel.
He’s not surprised by the level of competition and is actually enjoying it.
“If you’re the star or whatever back in college and you get here, everyone’s the best, the best players in the world,” he said. “So it’s a lot of fun.”
Miller feels numbers aren’t everything and hopes that doing what he does — and did for four years on the Flats — will make an impression to scouts watching and serve him well down the road.
“If I’m going to make it right now it’s going to be off of what I’m good at, which is defense, blocking shots, helping play off-side defense and getting rebounds,” said Miller, who graduated second in Georgia Tech history in blocked shots (286 behind Alvin Jones, recently named part of the Class of 2014 for the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame) and eighth all-time in rebounding (821). “I’ve got to stick with what I know and the rest will come later.”
Gregory is optimistic that Miller’s chance will come, it’s simply a matter of when and with whom.
“As I always say, the great teams in the NBA have three tremendous players. The good teams have two. The bad teams have one. That means even on the good teams there are 10 niche, roll-type players,” he said. “Sometimes guys have a hard time accepting that but the guys that do and find that niche end up making a pretty long career. The problem and the challenge is it may not be with the first team that you’re with. Daniel has a niche in that league. There’s no question about that. He just needs to find the right spot. I’m hoping it’s with Washington. I really am.”
“Definitely it would be awesome,” said Miller. “They have a bunch of good players, they’re on the rise, and are a very young team.”
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