May 25, 2011, 3:20 PM EDT
What has no thumbs and yet could give the Heat a grip on the NBA title for the next few seasons?
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.
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.