Miller expected to take a hefty paycut

Updated: August 20, 2003, 9:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

As an unrestricted free agent, Reggie Miller apparently had an opportunity to join Karl Malone in Los Angeles with the Lakers.

Reggie Miller
Miller

But instead of taking shots alongside Malone, Miller sounded like he was taking a few shots at Malone. At least indirectly.

In announcing his new multiyear contract to stay in Indiana as a member of the Pacers, Miller took the anti-Malone approach. He opted to stick with the only team he's known instead of chasing an elusive NBA title with a more likely contender.

"I didn't want to be like some other guys who jump on another team's bandwagon just to get a ring," Miller said.

Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said Miller, who turns 38 on Sunday, wanted to remain loyal to the city, fans and organization, even though there discussions with other teams.

"I know there were teams that wanted him," Walsh said. "He could have gone to another team. New Jersey. Probably L.A. (Lakers)."

The Lakers was Malone's destination of choice after spending his first 18 years in Utah. Malone joined fellow free agent Gary Payton as newcomers to a Lakers team just one year removed from three consecutive NBA titles.

The one thing Malone and Miller do have in common is that they both took significant pay cuts in order to help their clubs with the salary cap. Although terms of Miller's deal were not disclosed, he's not expected to make anywhere close to the $12 million he made last season.

Miller -- who signed his new contract Wednesday while in town for the PeyBack Bowl, a charity bowling event hosted by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning -- will be entering his 17th season with the Pacers. His new contract is likely his last one.

"I can't see myself playing after this contract," Miller said. "I came in as a rookie skinnier than I am now, and I had to prove myself to the great fans of Indiana,'' Miller said. ``They've seen me grow from a young boy into a young man. I know I get to finish my career here and be a lifetime Pacer."

Miller, who holds the NBA's record for most 3-pointers, wants to show he's fully recovered from a deep bone bruise to his right ankle during an exhibition game before the World Championships last summer. The injury bothered him all season and he averaged only 12.6 points.

"I'm still better than some of the 2 guards in the league," he said. "I feel much better, I feel stronger. Hopefully I get my legs back and hopefully you'll see the old Reggie will be back."

Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico there was no timetable how much longer Miller would play.

"I think Reggie will try and play as long as he possibly can," Thomas said. "Only he knows the answer to that."

Coming to terms with Miller was one of the first priorities for Larry Bird, who rejoined the team this summer as president of basketball operations.

"We are thrilled to have Reggie back," Bird said. "It is good to see players stay with the same team throughout their career. Reggie cares about the city he plays in and he has shown great loyalty to the organization over the past 16 seasons. I am looking forward to him having a great season."

Miller is coming off the worst playoff series of his 16-year career, averaging 9.2 points on 28 percent shooting in a six-game loss to Boston.

Miller had ankle surgery on May 19 and is expected to make a complete recovery.

"I think he feels rejuvenated," Walsh said. "That's what I saw. He got the ankle fixed and he feels good about that. Just the time he's had off has rejuvenated his body."

He is the Pacers' all-time leader in nine categories and his 23,505 career points are well ahead of runner-up Rik Smits (12,871).

Thomas, who spent his entire career with the Detroit Pistons, appreciated Miller's commitment to one team.

"Anytime you have an opportunity to finish your career in one place and be part of an organization you help get off the ground is great," Thomas said.

Miller won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics and 1994 World Championships. His only appearance in the NBA Finals came in 2000 when the Pacers lost to the Lakers.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.