PORTLAND — Thursday, former Trail Blazer Andre Miller said that he “didn’t even care” that he was traded away to the Nuggets on draft day last June.
Well, when he checked into the game for Denver midway through the first quarter, the Rose Garden showed that it did, in fact, care.
Trail Blazers fans greeted Miller with a standing ovation when he stepped onto the court, thanking the 35-year-old for two years of precision, production, and professionalism.
Milller said he didn’t have any expectations regarding the ovation. but said with a smile “It was always a good environment (in Portland). The fans supported the team no matter what.”
Miller averaged 13.3 points and 6.2 assists per game during his time in a Blazers jersey, and missed just one game — when the NBA suspended him for barreling Clippers forward Blake Griffin to the ground.
Asked what stood out in his mind when he played in Portland, Miller said “being part of a group that worked hard.”
However, when a reporter brought up the fact that he had a 52-point game here and threw the buzzer-beating, alley-oop lob to Nic Batum to beat the Spurs, Miller acknowledged that some of his sexier career highlights took place with the Blazers.
Miller has also long recognized that the NBA is, indeed, a business. So when he said that he “didn’t care” about being shipped away, it wasn’t a jab at the Blazers but rather a testament to the nature of the league.
He did, however, say that that “they’re trying to phase the older guys out … but I’m not going to let that happen.”
Miller came off the bench Thursday, as he has for Denver in all three games this season. He said he didn’t mind — at least for now.
“At this point, in a 66-game season, I’m not going to get caught up in starter minutes,” Miller said. “Whether it’s here (Denver) continually, or somewhere else, I’ll eventually step back into that role. Right now, I’m using it as a positive.”
Plus, if he wasn’t a reserve, he wouldn’t have received that booming ovation.
Which brings us to Rudy Fernandez …
The Spaniard may have spent the past three seasons playing for the Blazers, but when he checked in for the Nuggets Thursday, the Rose Garden rained down passionate boos.
Before the game, Fernandez was hoping that his history with the organization would elicit cheers, but fans opted to punish him for his limited production and open desire to get out of his contract and return to Spain.
In fact, the booing didn’t stop with his first appearance, but instead continued when he went to the free-throw line and after he scored.
The Blazers traded Fernandez to the Mavericks on draft day as part of a three-team deal that brought Raymond Felton to the Blazers.
He was then shipped to Denver on Dec. 13. Fernandez didn’t reveal any aspirations regarding his performance Thursday, but Miller said “Rudy would love to maybe hit 10 3’s out there.”
That didn’t quite happen, as it appears Fernandez is still searching for his touch.
In his final year in Portland, Fernandez shot just 37 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from 3-point range.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan suggested that his struggles may have had to do with the fact that Fernandez was a star in Spain and was adjusting to life playing off the ball.
When a reporter joked that perhaps it was McMillan’s fault, Nate zinged back, “It wasn’t the coaching — stay in your country.”