Miller questions suspension that ended his ironman streak

Portland guard: 'It's not like it was when I came (into) this league'

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TUALATIN, Ore. — A day after missing a game for the first time since the 2002-03 season, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Andre Miller chatted about his suspension, his guided-missile attack on Blake Griffin, and how the NBA has changed.

And just like that blow to Griffin, he didn’t hold back.

On the significance of his streak: “It means a lot. Obviously, it doesn’t mean anything to the league. I take pride in it. I did what I did. I didn’t it think it was something that ruled a suspension. I’ll get the opportunity to it again, definitely.”

His reaction to the suspension: “I was surprised. I actually wasn’t even notified. I found out toward the evening when I was sleeping that there would be a suspension. It just shows you how soft the league has gotten, protecting young players. It’s not like it was when I came (into) this league.”

On if he thinks the collision will trigger referees to watch Blake Griffin more closely: “No, not really, because he’s going to get away with it. I don’t have nothing against him being an aggressive big man. I don’t think I would have been suspended if there was a flagrant foul called on the court. (Blazers center Marcus) Camby whacked someone in the face and he didn’t get suspended. The rules don’t apply to everyone.”

On whether he would have done it again knowing it would warrant suspension: “I took two shots. The referees didn’t call it on that end. I took two shots, then I gave a shot. I told the ref, ‘We can call that even now.’ He didn’t make the call, and he was looking right at it.”

On whether the suspension was justified: “It wasn’t justified at all. If I was a dirty player that was looking to go out and hurt someone then I can understand, ‘OK, this guy has a reputation.’ Back in the day, like John Stockton, tough-minded player, some people thought he was dirty. He never got suspended for anything. The league has changed, they favor the young guys now, and that’s just how it is.”

Babbitt to D-League

Blazers rookie Luke Babbitt was sent to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League Wednesday and led the team with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting in an 83-80 win over Dakota that night.

Babbitt has played just 30 minutes this season, is averaging 0.8 points and 0.5 rebounds a game, and was placed on the inactive list at the end of November to a clear roster spot for rehabilitated center Joel Przybilla.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan said the issue was brought to his attention a few days ago, and agrees that the court time will benefit the University of Nevada product.

“Once rookies go through the month of November, and are not playing and they’re on the inactive list, you know Luke is working hard every day but a lot of it is individual work, one-on-one work and shooting. But he’s not getting time on the floor,” McMillan said. “And now being on the inactive list, we just felt like he could get some games, and get some time on the floor, which now he needs.”

Babbitt attended Nevada with fellow Blazers rookie Armon Johnson, and the already close friends have strengthened their bond while grinding in the NBA. So while Johnson is optimistic about Babbitt’s future development, he’s still a little sad about parting with his pal.

“I’m already missing him, man. I missed him when we came in this morning,” Johnson said. “I’m excited for him, and he’s excited for himself and that’s the biggest thing. I think he’ll make a lot of improvement. It’ll be great for him.”

Mills still popular

Patty Mills continues to attract attention after another productive night.

The Australian point guard scored nine points and dropped seven assists in a career-high 29 minutes against the Suns on Tuesday, and once again fielded questions from a herd of reporters.

How has he been dealing with the attention?

“It’s been fine, you just gotta get the job done that’s needed,” Mills said. “I think every time you get a chance to step on the court, you need to perform every time because you know somebody’s watching.”

As for Wednesday’s film session?

“It was one of the few film sessions that didn’t go as long as the other ones,” he said with a chuckle.

Howard still a star

The Blazers tonight meet Orlando, a team that has lost two in a row but still boasts a record of 15-6 — second-best in the Eastern Conference.

Its recent struggles can be attributed to five players having caught the flu at once. As for its wins? Those are much in part the result of center Dwight Howard, who is averaging 20.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game.

“He’s been an MVP candidate before, and he’s playing that way now,” said McMillan, adding that it’s key to have players such as Przybilla back in the lineup. “You need bigs. You certainly need bigs. It’s possible they can and will get in foul trouble.”

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkinscolumbian.com