Local family members didn’t see it coming, but they celebrated when Andre Miller (24) of the Trail Blazers torched the Mavericks for a career-high 52 points Jan. 30.
When news of Andre Miller’s 52-point outing at Dallas on Jan. 30 spread, the reaction among those who know the Portland guard best was almost universal. And local basketball guru Guss Armstead, it’s safe to say, could have been the spokesman of that elated bunch.
“It definitely surprised me, because his whole game has always been an attack game but more of a facilitator, getting other guys involved,” said Armstead, who has welcomed Miller into his high-level summertime scrimmages and watched him closely for years. “To see him get 50 (points)? I think a lot of people were really surprised. I think everybody was pretty surprised that Andre Miller scored 50 points. I can’t honestly say I saw that coming.”
One of the league’s most underrated point guards has flown under the radar in Sacramento for nearly 20 years. Before Miller had numerous houses in the area and spent his offseasons in El Dorado Hills, he would head north from his Los Angeles hometown during childhood summers to stay with aunts and uncles in the region. His roots here grew deeper during his high school years, when Miller’s Verbum Dei teams would take part in the Father Barry Classic at Jesuit High and Miller met his adopted family.
During Miller’s sophomore year, he became instant friends with then-Jesuit freshman Dominick Barnett. He would stay at Dwight and Kim Barnett’s three-bedroom house in Antelope during the tournament every year, enjoying the family atmosphere and homecooked soul food that has grown into a business. The Barnetts, who now run the popular “House of Chicken and Ribs” restaurant in Antelope, later became Miller’s godparents at the request of his mother, Andrea Robinson.
When the Barnetts heard of Miller’s 52-point performance in a 114-112 Blazers victory in overtime in which Miller hit 22 of 31 shots, the pride swelled, as it has many times before. It was much the same scene at Arco Arena, where his aunt, Marsha, works as part of the Kings’ game-day staff and was thrilled to hear of her nephew’s achievement.
“He was just out of control,” Dwight Barnett said. “When I heard 52 points, I just thought, ‘My goodness, that’s Kobe Bryant numbers.’ Not LeBron (James), because I don’t know if he has done 52. #133; He was incredible.”
James has reached that mark, but not often. He has scored 52 or more points four times in his seven seasons, the latest a 55-point performance at Milwaukee on Feb. 20, 2009. Hitting the half-century mark remains a rare feat, as the Elias Sports Bureau reports there have been 19 50-point games since the start of the 2007-08 season and just two others this season (Milwaukee rookie Brandon Jennings scored 55 on Nov. 14, and Denver’s Carmelo Anthony had 50 on Nov. 27).
What’s more, Miller knocked down Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie one spot on Portland’s all-time list of single-game scoring marks. Miller’s game is tied for second with Brandon Roy and trails only Damon Stoudamire’s 54-point game on Jan. 14, 2005. Petrie, who was the Blazers’ first draft choice in 1970, is tied with himself for third place. He twice scored 51 points in 1973, the first coming at Houston on Jan. 20 and the second at home against Houston on March 16. Miller’s 22 field goals also supplanted Petrie and three others as Portland’s leader in shots made in a game (Petrie twice had 20).
Miller’s game was most surprising because of his style. The 11-year veteran, who signed with Portlandlast summer, had never scored more than 37 points and averaged 14.6 points per game for his career entering the season. In the five games before the 52, he scored 54 points combined. And while it didn’t show against the Mavericks, he has struggled to adjust to his new teammates.
Miller, whose deal guarantees him $14 million for this season and next, publicly voiced his frustration at coming off the bench early in the season. He then did it privately Jan. 7, reportedly engaging in a heated 30-minute post-practice exchange with coach Nate McMillan. “I think him and Nate were just not clicking right and he wanted to play a more pivotal role in helping the organization win,” Barnett said. “That’s what that was all about, just making playoffs and wanting to go to the Western Conference (finals) and try to win a championship.”