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Winderman: Mike Miller gives Heat big thumbs up

May 25, 2011, 3:20 PM EST

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four Getty Images

What has no thumbs and yet could give the Heat a grip on the NBA title for the next few seasons?

Mike Miller.

Still recovering from preseason surgery on his right thumb and poised for offseason surgery on his left thumb, the veteran swingman stands as an example of how much a player with a mere eight digits still can benefit the right team.

No, Miller has not been the star of these Eastern Conference finals for the Heat. That would be a take-your-choice mix of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and possibly even Udonis Haslem.

And he hasn’t necessarily even been the Heat’s best reserve, with cases that could be made for Haslem and Mario Chalmers.

But because all 10 of his toes seemingly are in working order, his ability simply to make it to the court for extended minutes has been huge in the Heat’s climb to a 3-1 series lead entering Thursday’s Game 5 at the United Center.

With Miller available as an extra wing alongside James and Dwyane Wade, he has provided a two-fold boost.

Foremost, he allows the Heat to shift James onto Derrick Rose, while still leaving enough on the perimeter to defend the Bulls’ wings.

Beyond that, he allows Erik Spoelstra to play without a true point guard. And when your true point guards are Chalmers and Mike Bibby, that can be a very good thing.

Further, with Miller one of the league’s best rebounders at his position, it also affords the Heat the opportunity to go more often without a true center.

The knock on the Heat, entering these playoffs, and rightfully so, had been their shortcomings at center and point guard.

At the close of Tuesday’s Game 4 overtime thriller, neither a point guard nor a center was within view, and that makes the Heat quite the sight.

At the start of last summer’s free agency, Miller was among the first players the Heat interviewed. Pat Riley and his staff were well aware that James wanted to play alongside Miller, which also is why the Cavaliers and every other LeBron-luring suitor had contacted Miller.

Now Miller, whose son, Maverick, is named after James’ manager Maverick Carter, is providing a direct boost to James’ championship hopes, as well as allowing James to make a few points at the point.

By next season, Miller might even come with thumbs attached.

For now, in his own way, he is doing plenty when it comes to James moving closer to securing a grip on that first championship ring.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

  1. andrejohnsonforpresident - May 25, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    Miller was a monster last year from 3 point land. I beileve his season avg was above .500. The day he gets his thumbs in shape will be a scary day for anyone playing the heat.

    • andrejohnsonforpresident - May 25, 2011 at 4:13 PM

      82 171 .480 my bad.. He was close, considering he was the only person worth anything for the wizards and teams knew he was gonna launch 3′s. 82 out of 171 is still very good.

  2. randysavage4ever - May 25, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    for the career Mike Miller has had, the ups & downs, for him to be in a position for a ring at this point of his life is what defines sports.

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