After considering retirement during the NBA Finals and then contemplating back surgery at the completion of the Heat’s championship run, Miller is up and running and looking forward to the Sept. 29 start of training camp at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"I’m feeling pretty good," he said Saturday.
Instead of gaining a $2.9 million injury exception for a replacement player, the Heat apparently will have the real thing, with Miller hoping to pick up where he left off, which just happened to be with seven three-pointers in the Game 5 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder that gave the Heat their second championship.
The first step toward a return came in July, when the Heat bypassed the opportunity to utilize their amnesty exception on Miller and instead banked it for future use. Such a release would have allowed the Heat to avoid the $5.8 million luxury-tax payment now due on Miller’s 2012-13 salary.
From there, rigorous rehab in place of expected back surgery has delivered the 12-year-veteran to the precipice of a camp some thought the 32-year-old never would make, with Miller in contact with Miami neurosurgeon Dr. Barth Green throughout the process.
"I basically looked at my options and back surgery, with Dr. Green pretty confident that we could get it to where I need to be without it. So we’re slowly but surely getting there," he said at a Saturday promotional appearance at Maye Pediatric Dentistry and Shelling Orthodontics along with teammates Udonis Haslem and James Jones. "My body feels good. Like I said, we’ve just got to be smart about it."
This would be the first season Miller has a chance to start on time for the Heat. A thumb injury sustained late in training camp wiped out the first half of his 2010-11 debut season and then surgery for a sports hernia kept him out of last season’s training camp and the early stages of the regular season.
"It’s a long haul," he said. "Like we found out the last two seasons, you’ve just got to make sure you’re smart about it early."
That could have him in slow-go mode at the start of camp.
"If it was up to me, personally, yes, I’d be ready," he said. "I feel good enough. It’s going to be interesting once I get contact and stuff like that."
Because for all the strides Miller has made with his back, he’s been limiting his strides these past three months. He returned to the court two weeks ago.
"It feels good. It’s getting there," he said. "Obviously, I’ve got to get my legs back. Stationary shooting feels fantastic, really. The break probably helped that. But moving and shooting, movement with your legs, and conditioning has been a little bit tough."
"I’m definitely trying to pick up things from both of those," he said. "It feels good to be in there working with those guys, exciting."
But, no, there haven’t been any shooting contests yet.
"We’ll start, we’ll start," Miller said with a laugh. "I told them they’ve got to give me some time. It’s the longest I’ve ever been off without shooting the ball."