Mike Miller believes his balky back can improve without surgery, and he's planning to help the NBA champion Miami Heat defend their crown next season.
Miller limped through much of this past season, his back pain so severe at times that he couldn't even sit on the Heat bench during games. He has been consulting with Miami neurosurgeon Dr. Barth Green throughout this offseason, and the expectation now is that a combination of rest and rehabilitation should be enough to get him ready to play again.
"No retirement," Miller said Tuesday.
Miller made an appearance for about 600 children at a basketball camp he sponsored, walking in to roars from the kids and chants of his last name. And when told that Hialeah, a city just north of Miami, believes it was the epicenter of the biggest party to celebrate the Heat championship, Miller tipped his hand as to his future plans.
"Then let's party again next year," Miller said.
Miller was 7 for 8 from 3-point range in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City, helping the Heat clinch the franchise's second championship.
Miller has three years remaining on his contract with the Heat, but considered retiring after two injury-filled seasons in Miami. An array of thumb, wrist and shoulder injuries plagued him in the 2010-11 season, and this past year was marred as well, first by offseason hernia surgery, the issue with a disc in his back, and a sprained ankle.
If back surgery was needed, Miller might have been sidelined for months and said that would have prompted him to lean toward retirement.
"The plan is to avoid surgery," Miller said. "We're doing everything we can. The doctor says it looks fantastic. So we're going to continue to go in that direction, continue to rehab it, see how it goes."
Miller is scheduled to visit Green again Wednesday to discuss more rehab plans. Green is widely considered one of the world's top surgeons, and Miller said it was somewhat frightening to have to see him and essentially decide his basketball future.
"I was nervous. There's no question about it," Miller said. "But you know what? People that are the best at what they do also know how to do alternatives and what it takes to prevent having surgery. That's what I liked about him from the get-go. Even though he's known for being the best as a surgeon, he was trying to avoid it, which is a credit to him."
Miller wants to be ready for training camp, though he suggested that if his body isn't ready by then, he will not force the issue.
Adding two other shooters in Ray Allen — the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made — and Rashard Lewis certainly figures to make life a bit easier for Miller, if for no other reason than the Heat should have plenty of options from the outside. Miller said he couldn't believe that Heat President Pat Riley, managing general partner Micky Arison and CEO Nick Arison managed to get Allen and Lewis to sign relatively low-number contracts with the Heat.
"You're not just adding two more shooters, you're adding the best shooter of all time when it comes to makes, and then Rashard Lewis is right up there, too," Miller said. "The Arison family and Pat continue to do an unbelievable job. ... This is a special organization to be a part of. It starts from the top and goes down and whenever you've got players who take less money that means you're doing something right."
Miller made 45 percent of his attempts from 3-point range this season, averaging 6.1 points in 39 games. It's been a whirlwind summer — "everything changes as a champion," Miller said — with promotional appearances and plans to be involved in the release of an energy drink called Let It Fly on Aug. 10, but he's sounding confident in the plan to be able to play again.
"Rest is the whole thing," Miller said. "The inflammation gets out of there, the pain goes down, now it's about strengthening it and sustaining."