The Wizards are going to the second round of the playoffs.
The Wizards may be the favorites in the second round of the playoffs.
Some of the guys on the team -- the John Walls, the Trevor Bookers, and the Kevin Seraphins among them -- have never sniffed the playoffs. Some of the others, like Marcin Gortat, Al Harrington, Drew Gooden and Nene, have been frequent visitors of the NBA's second season.
No one on the roster, however, has been to the playoffs as many times as Andre Miller. He joined the NBA 14 seasons ago, and after three lackluster seasons with the Cavaliers and Clippers, he's made the playoffs every year since 2003-2004 (except for 2007, when he was traded from Denver to Philadelphia for Allen Iverson). And now, in his 10th postseason appearance, Miller has made it to the second round for the very first time.
As Miller is now an integral part of the "AARP Unit" on a team that itself is no stranger to futility, we thought it might be helpful to know the ins-and-outs of Miller's journey on his 11-year struggle to make it past the first round of the playoffs.
His first three postseason appearances were with the Denver Nuggets, and each appearance resulted in a 4-1 dismissal, a Gentleman's Sweep if you will. Miller and rookie Carmelo Anthony were no match for the 2004 Minnesota Timberwolves, led by MVP Kevin Garnett and his teammates like Sam Cassell, Wally Szczerbiak, and Latrell "Let's go sailing on Lake Minnetonka" Sprewell.
In 2005, Miller and company fought valiantly against the Spurs in the first round, but the Tim Duncan-Manu Ginobili-Tony Parker core was in full swing and the Spurs went home with the title that year (their third of four). Duncan was the Finals MVP, and everyone else was chum for these swimming sharks.
In 2006, the Nuggets flamed out against the unprecedentedly hot Clippers, led by Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and... really? Sam Cassell again? Damn, Sam.
In 2008, after Miller replaced Iverson as the head of the Sixers's snake (Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, and Thad Young made up the snake's torso. Snakes have torsos, right?), they rode a 40-win season to a 7-seed, and they managed to take two games away from the 59-win Pistons. But alas, the Pistons got four wins, and made it to the Eastern Finals and lost to the eventual champs, the Boston Celtics, who were themselves taken to seven games by the 37-win Atlanta Hawks.
Those Pistons featured the last season of Flip Saunders as their coach (Sheed famously called Saunders "the worst [bad word] coward I've ever seen"), and those Celtics featured the last season of Sam Cassell (who so far has been the villain in our story). Cassell later joined forces with Saunders in Washington when Saunders took over as head coach after Eddie Jordan was fired and Ed Tapscott briefly filled in.
In 2009, Miller's Sixers lost to the eventual East champions, the Orlando Magic, and led by their Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard (and his protege, Marcin Gortat). A more mature Thaddeus Young and a Swiss Army knife Andre Iguodala helped Miller snag two games away from the Magic. Another year, another dismissal.
The 2010 and 2011 Blazers, with Miller running the point, were able to win 50 and 48 games, respectively, under Nate McMillan, despite injury-riddled rosters in a very competitive Western Conference. The Suns and Mavericks dispatched those Blazers squads in six games, but losing to a team that lost to the eventual NBA Champions on a miracle heave from Metta World Peace and then the actual eventual NBA Champions in back-to-back years isn't too bad of a line to put on the resume.
In 2012 and 2013, Miller was back on the Nuggets. The first year featured a loss in seven games to the waning Lakers, and the second year featured a loss in six games rising Warriors. But at least that six-game series featured a career highlight for Miller: a game-winning shot in the first game after a vintage performance. From the AP feature after 2013 Game 1:
"I've never hit a game-winning shot," the 37-year-old guard said after sinking a nifty layup with just more than a second left that gave the Denver Nuggets a 97-95 win over the Golden State Warriors in their playoff opener.
Not in high school. Not in college. Not in his 13 NBA seasons.
"Never," Miller repeated. "I've taken a couple and missed or turned the ball over. But that was big for a first playoff game."
And now here we are, in 2014. The Wizards have dispatched the Bulls and will play their first game against Indiana on Monday in Round Two. Andre Miller, with Sam Cassell on his side this time, is no doubt waiting eagerly for his first foray into the second phase of the second season. But I doubt he wants to stop there.