Ex-Cats

Could the Lakers end up with two former UK stars? Darius Miller weighs in.

Darius Miller on overseas basketball fans

While in Maysville for a skills camp, former University of Kentucky player Darius Miller spoke about the passion of basketball fans in Germany compared to that of UK fans.
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While in Maysville for a skills camp, former University of Kentucky player Darius Miller spoke about the passion of basketball fans in Germany compared to that of UK fans.

Anthony Davis’ midseason request to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans was the talk of the NBA from the moment it was reported all the way up to its still-to-be-determined conclusion. It won’t be official until sometime next month, but the former Wildcat will soon be a former Pelican.

Davis will join LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, the franchise at the center of his request back in January. He’s not the only ex-Cat who could move on from the Big Easy this summer, either: Darius Miller, one of Davis’ teammates at UK and parts of five seasons in New Orleans, is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Miller averaged career highs in points (8.2 per game), minutes (25.5) and assists (2.1) and started a career-best 15 games last season, his second straight in the NBA after a three-year stint overseas. He’s not as worried about finding a spot in free agency as he was following the end of his original rookie contract in 2014.

“I should be all right,” Miller told the Herald-Leader during a recent visit to Maysville as part of a youth camp he and Chris Lofton, another former Mason County standout, help host each summer.

Miller’s capability of production at a lower-range dollar amount — his last contract was for $4.3 million over two years, slightly above the league minimum for a player at his level of service — could make him an attractive piece for playoff contenders looking to fortify their rosters ahead of the 2019-20 season. The Pelicans, suddenly in the midst of a youth movement supercharged by the acquisition of No. 1 pick Zion Williamson, are not expected to be a postseason challenger next season.

“They’ve got a really nice, young core now,” Miller said. “I think they’ll be really fun to watch for the next however many years.”

The Lakers figure to be the kind of team that would benefit more from a ring-hungry veteran. Would Miller be interested in following The Brow to Hollywood?

“Definitely, definitely,” Miller said. “I think they’ll be a really great team. They have great players and it seems like they’re picking up great coaches, too. I feel like anybody would want to play in that situation.”

Chemistry problems?

From the outside it would seem that Davis’ mid-year request would be disruptive to team morale. According to Miller, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“It didn’t really have a huge effect on us, really,” Miller said. “We had pretty close team chemistry, and you know, that’s just part of the business. People get traded every year so it didn’t have that huge of an effect. I think injuries had more of a effect on the season than that did.”

Players are used to the behind-the-scenes business of professional basketball, and situations like the one that unfolded in New Orleans during the winter are not incredibly abnormal; the principal involved — and the Pelicans’ awkward handling of Davis’ minutes down the stretch — helped magnify it by a factor of 100.

“You see so much change on teams year after year, so it’s nothing really different,” Miller said. “He’s been there for, he felt, long enough, I guess. He put in his work and now he’s trying to do other things and compete for a championship. He’s a close friend of mine, so I wish him the best and I hope he eventually gets a ring.”

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