Darius Miller never expected to participate in the 2019-20 NBA season, but he still might have the opportunity to do so.
The New Orleans Pelicans forward hasn’t played since the 2018-19 season following a tear to his Achilles that forced him to the bench. Miller suffered the injury last summer during the offseason, roughly one month after signing a two-year, $14 million extension (one year ago on this day, actually) with the Pels.
Miller spoke to the media earlier on Friday for the first time since the season was suspended back in March, and even though the NBA’s restart is planned to start soon on July 30, he’s still taking his rehab process “day-by-day”. Right now, he still isn’t sure if he’ll join the rest of his New Orleans squad down in Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort.
Darius Miller says he's unsure if he'll be ready to play in Orlando. Hasn't been able to play any 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 bc of COVID-19.
I doubt we'll see him playing if he can't ramp up his activity really quickly.
— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) July 3, 2020
“Right now I’m just taking it day-by-day,” Miller told the media. “Trying to add something new into my workouts and see how my body reacts. Like I said, it’s unfortunate I can’t play five-on-five or at least three-on-three just to get a gauge, but we’re doing the most that we can right now to see about when I’ll be able to play.”
Back in early June, ESPN reported that Miller’s status was up in the air and that doesn’t appear to have changed since then. Also on Friday, the Pelicans social media posted a short clip of Miller shooting around in an open gym with the caption reading “back in the lab”.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) July 3, 2020
New Orleans will head down to Orlando as one of six teams on the outside looking in, as they’ll need to stay within four games of the Western Conference’s eight-seeded team in order to qualify for a potential play-in round.
If you have time, head on over and read the entire transcript from Miller’s session. He details the process he’s had to go through trying to rehab while also quarantining, how he reached out to DeMarcus Cousins for advice on recovering from an Achilles tear, and his impressions on rookie sensation Zion Williamson.
While he hasn’t explicitly given a yes or no answer as to if he’ll play or not, he did end his media availability with this: “If I’m able to [play], I am, that’s just the way that it is. I haven’t been able to test a lot, like I said, but as we ramp up more I’ll be able to see, and I think [the team] will put me in a good position to know if I’m ready to go or not.”
Miller is already 30 years old and only has one year remaining on his contract. No one would blame him for sitting out the restart in order to get as healthy as possible. Right now, long-term success is much more important. The Pelicans don’t exactly have the most optimistic shot at making a deep playoff run, either, although this isn’t going to be a normal playoff scenario. All it takes is one stretch of hot shooting for a team to surprise people, and having a shooter like Miller on the wing sure wouldn’t hurt.