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Andre Miller

Andre Miller

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For the Portland Trail Blazers, it was a solid salvage of a bad month.

For Andre Miller, it was a life preserver thrown, perhaps just in the nick of time.

The Blazers and Miller made a marriage out of necessity on Friday, with Portland agreeing in principle on a three-year, $21 million deal with Miller, according to a source.

The two sides were still finalizing the contract Friday afternoon, but there were not expected to be any last-minute snags."It's a very good opportunity," said Miller's agent, Andy Miller.

"For him, it's the right fit."The Blazers got serious with Miller on Tuesday, as NBA.com reported, after their four-year, $32 million offer sheet to Utah Jazz forward Paul Milsap was matched by the Jazz.

Feeling they would not likely have this much cap room in the future -- the Blazers have rising superstars in guard Brandon Roy and forward LaMarcus Aldridge, along with center Greg Oden -- there was significant sway within the Portland organization to do something this summer to add to the team's young core.Acquiring the 33-year-old Miller, who has missed just five games in 11 NBA seasons, ends a month in which Portland was rejected, time and again, despite having $7.7 million in room under the salary cap and one of the most promising young teams in the league.The Blazers have long thought they needed to improve themselves at point guard, with Steve Blake the current starter and second-year guard Jerryd Bayless thought of more as a combo guard than pure point.

They had tried to pry loose the likes of Kirk Hinrich from Chicago and Jason Kidd from Dallas through trades for several months without success.

Nor did they have much luck with Phoenix trying to acquire Steve Nash.

They hoped to lure Kidd in free agency, but Kidd quickly agreed to stay with the Mavericks.Portland then went the point forward route, believing it had a deal with Orlando unrestricted free agent Hedo Turkoglu on a five-year, $50 million contract.

But Turkoglu changed his mind while in Portland meeting with team officials, spurning the Blazers for a $53 million deal with Toronto that left e Blazers fuming.

The Blazers then went away from ballhandlers altogether in signing Milsap to the offer sheet.

But they turned back to point guard when Utah agreed to match the offer sheet.

(Portland was never very interested in Lakers free agent forward Lamar Odom, whose contract talks with Los Angeles are now back on.)The Blazers wanted someone who would be a perimeter threat, feeling that Roy and Aldridge needed that.

That's not Miller's game; he's just a career 21 percent 3-point shooter, making just 34 threes in the last five seasons.But Miller is still one of the league's best passing guards, who showed he was able to stay with the Sixers' young, athletic players like Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams the past season and a half.

A post-up point who uses his body, head fakes and angles to get defenders off their feet, Miller's 409 free-throw attempts last season ranked fifth in the league among point guards, behind Devin Harris, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Russell Westbrook.

Miller finished 14th in the league in assists per game last season and 15th in assist-turnover ratio (2.68).Miller played well in Philadelphia after being acquired in December, 2006 from Denver in the Allen Iverson trade.

He had provided steady on-court leadership and showed he still had an ability to score in leading the 76ers to consecutive playoff appearances after many thought they'd flounder without Iverson.

One of the quietest guys in the game, Miller, with career averages of 14.6 points and 7.4 assists, chafed in silence when he wasn't mentioned as one of the game's best, frequently saving some of his biggest games for when Philly went up against some of the league's premier points.He averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 assists last season, but throughout the year, the 76ers made it clear that they weren't going to commit to a long-term contract, and Miller grew antsy and frustrated.

After the team was eliminated from the Playoffs in six games by Orlando in the first round, Miller was a no-show for his exit interview with team management.Things didn't get much better when the 76ers offered him only a one-year deal at the mid-level exception.

New York made a similar offer, and it looked like Miller would be the veteran point left out in the cold compared to Kidd (who got three years and $25 million from Dallas) and Nash, who got a two-year extension at $22 million from Phoenix as well as having this year's $13.1 million salary fully guaranteed.

Portland will be Miller's fifth NBA team, after playing in Cleveland, in Los Angeles with the Clippers, Denver and Philadelphia.The 76ers, with new coach Eddie Jordan, will now look for a veteran, defensive-oriented point guard, feeling that they have plenty of scorers in Iguodala, Young, Elton Brand, Williams and Willie Green.

They're looking at several potential options, from Jamaal Tinsley, just bought out on Wednesday by the Pacers, to Carlos Arroyo, who played last season in Israel, to C.J.

Watson, the Warriors' restricted free agent.

They've also taken a look at players like Tyronn Lue and Juan Dixon, but feel they're a cut below the others.Portland's agreement with Miller is a big blow to Knicks restricted free agent forward David Lee, who is still looking for a home.

The 25-year-old has been trying to find a team that would do a sign-and-trade deal with New York, but the Knicks have been reluctant to tie up any of their cap room for the 2010 offseason by taking back any contracts for that year from other teams.The Blazers were the last team remaining with enough cap room to give Lee anything near the $10 million annually he's seeking; the Pistons already have used their room on free agents Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Chris Wilcox, and the Thunder have not been willing to make any kind of long-term commitments to anyone, knowing that they will soon have to extend the likes of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Westbrook, not to mention adding talent around those three.ESPN.com reported Friday that the Blazers recruited Lee in Las Vegas, where he's part of USA Basketball's mini-camp.

But New York remained reluctant to making any kind of sign-and-trade deal.



http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/david_aldridge/07/24/miller.blazers/
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