By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2001
Former Florida standout Mike Miller has had a memorable rookie season with the Orlando Magic. Hours before Thursday's 101-77 win over the 76ers, Miller talked about his first year in the pros, NBA referees, memorable moments, snakes, reality TV and spying.
RM: Grade how you've handled the transition from college to the pros.
MM: It's been tremendous thus far. I really can't complain. Don't get me wrong, it has been a transition and a learning process the whole year, but I'm finally starting to get comfortable with my teammates, the players (around the league), the league itself. I have a comfort level now and am learning to play and learning the feel of the NBA game.
RM: For all the people who love college basketball, give them your take on the NBA.
MM: It's definitely a lot tougher, I mean a lot tougher than the college game. It's a game you need to play to learn.
RM: There's this rumor that you have to earn the respect of the officials. Is that true?
MM: Somewhat. The bottom line is, when you learn what you can get away with, it helps (the player and the referee). At first, you don't know, and they have to let you know.
RM: For example?
MM: As far as hand checking is concerned, you can put your forearm in the back of a player when fighting for position. But if you open up your hand and show your palm, then it gets called. I've learned that it makes a difference. With the open palm, you can grab a jersey or a hand or something.
RM: 'Fess up. Have you ever had second thoughts about turning pro?
RM: Yeah, truthfully!
MM: One time. When I first got here, even before training camp, when I was playing with the players, there was a point when I didn't understand what was going on and I questioned it a bit. A little. But I have never had any regrets, per se.
RM: Best moment of the season?
MM: My best moment was when we were on that nine-game winning streak and I think it was in the second half of the Philadelphia game. I was off during the first half, and coach (Doc Rivers) came up to me at the half and said I had to get back on. I had to. I had 18 points in the second half, and that was a pretty good moment.
RM: Nervous about the playoffs?
MM: No. I think the playoffs are going to be fun. I'm going to be excited for it. I know the intensity is going to pick up a notch; that goes without saying. But you've got to be able to play in that environment.
RM: You are afraid of ... ?
MM: Snakes. I don't like them. Just the look and feel of snakes.
RM: You know in Florida they can get into your garage?
MM: I would not be going in the garage for a long time.
RM: What's the difference between a good player and a great player?
MM: A good player can be expected to show up 60 to 70 games and play well. A great one shows up all 82 and does everything for you, on both ends of the court and in the locker room.
RM: The difference between a good coach and a great coach?
MM: A good coach can win with the players he has. A great coach can win with the players he has and anyone else's players as well. RM: If you could be someone for a month, who would you like to be?
MM: Probably Tiger Woods. I just think that there's only a few people I've ever been in awe of. Michael Jordan was one, and I've done the basketball thing. Tiger is the other. It would be interesting. Dealing with his demands would be ridiculous. I would like to see how it feels, at least.
RM: Best all-time movie?
MM: Shawshank Redemption is a great one. (Tim Robbins' character) had to go through a lot of stuff when he was in jail, but he always had a plan. He knew he didn't commit the crime, but he still had a plan.
RM: But in the end, didn't he end up breaking the law by escaping?
MM: That's true. He broke the law, but he was not supposed to be in there in the first place.
RM: Ever notice dentists never say, "You're okay. You don't need any work done."
MM: They never say that. Probably because you won't have to pay for anything. I dislike them. Well, actually, I don't dislike dentists, but just the fact that they are in my mouth poking around isn't fun.
RM: Who do you trust more, a dentist or a mechanic?
MM: I'm guessing the dentist.
RM: Jerry Springer or Oprah Winfrey?
MM: I would say Jerry Springer. He understands that he's doing it all for the fun of it. He's not trying to hide behind things.
RM: What's your take on reality TV shows?
MM: I completely don't understand it. How could it be real and be in television with all the cameras around? It's fake. It has to be. I never got caught up in it. It's not reality.
RM: What would have happened to a Chinese spy crew had its plane been shot down in Florida Keys?
MM: That's a good question. I think we would have returned them eventually but not their equipment. Kind of like what the Chinese are doing with our plane.
RM: What do you think about this spying thing?
MM: It's part of the world, in general. If you're not spying, you're not trying.