When it was announced last winter that Brad Miller would be playing on the men's national basketball team, two immediate thoughts came to mind:
- Oh crap, he's going to get hurt. He's aging, he's always tired because of long minutes, and he's not a guy who will ever likely play 82 games again. Also, he got injured in an All-Star game. We're going to have damaged goods in 2006, right?
- This could be really great for Brad. He gets to learn under one of the greatest basketball mind in the world for a few months, while playing with the best players in the world. He seems to relish playing for the United States, and is one of the guys who has to honestly believe he'd never even be close to this level of athletic competition. Without doubt, Miller would be the wide-eyed feel-good story of Beijing 2008 for the basketball team. Keeping him in shape in the offseason can only help come November, right?
And, according to Ailene Voisin in today's Sacramento Bee, our brightest hopes for B-52's summer campaign are coming true. He's lost some weight, he's learning some defense, he's staying active when on the floor. What were his biggest problems during his 2005-06 valleys, especially in the postseason? He was two steps slower and less athletic than usual, which is devastating for the type of player he is. He was getting more blocks than usual, but allowing more unimpeded layups than usual. And he was just standing around if he and Mike Bibby weren't working the pick-and-pop. As a result, he wasn't scoring, he wasn't rebounding, he wasn't defending, he wasn't contributing.
Shedding that weight is huge. Remember Bibby's different but not dissimilar weight gain before last season? MB10 bulked up, putting on some more muscle to help his finishing ability around the rim. What was the result? Bibby was incredibly slow all through preseason and into the first two weeks of the regular season. He couldn't get past the defender, he couldn't even pretend to keep up on defense. Speed is seriously one of the most overlooked attributes in basketball, and I think we've got two very different but very convincing cases right now.
For now, our fears about a limping Brad, a tired Brad are unfounded while our hopes about a fitter Brad, a better Brad are coming true. Let's hope it's still the case in November.