TNT analyst Reggie Miller will broadcast the Thunder-Nuggets game at 9:30 p.m. Thursday with Kevin Harlan and reporter Craig Sager as the second game of TNT's doubleheader. New York hosts Miami in the first game at 7 p.m. (Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and reporter Rachel Nichols). The Thunder-Nuggets game also will air on FSOK (Brian Davis, Grant Long and reporter Lesley McCaslin). Miller, a former UCLA and Indiana Pacers star guard, discussed the Thunder and NBA in a phone interview.
What has surprised you about the Thunder?
“The play of Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams really intrigues me because for so many years the success was the big three, originally with Westbrook, Harden and Durant. Then with Harden going to Houston, everyone was wondering who is going to be that third person. Ibaka has shown that at times, but hasn't been consistent. But between Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, those two guys are forming up to be pretty good. With more time with Westbrook on the mend for another two to three weeks, this time really helps Reggie and Jeremy. I really like how Jeremy is playing right now. He seems to be comfortable with his game. He's making that outside shot, which was a question mark. And he's showing a level of maturity and toughness that I haven't seen at all last year.
“They are deep, they're young. At the end of the day, it comes down to the health of Westbrook and Durant. And Durant has been fantastic. To me, they're the team to beat in the West because it's all about matchups. When Westbrook got hurt last year, obviously (it) opened the avenue for them to be beat. San Antonio can't match up with OKC. But in my opinion, OKC has a problem with teams like the Clippers and Golden State whereas San Antonio beats up Golden State and the Clippers.”
Three knee surgeries in one year, is that something the team has to be concerned about?
“Oh, I'm sure. But again this is a guy who hasn't missed a game dating all the way back to high school. So a lot of it could be wear and tear over the years, overusage, and this could be a blessing in disguise. He was never going to beat A.C. Green's (consecutive game) record. Why push yourself to that? What's more important? Is it being healthy going into playoffs for that stretch run? It's a blessing because of the development of Jackson and Lamb. Look, Sam Presti did it again with Steven Adams. I love that kid. He's tough. He knows his role. He rebounds. He gets hit in the face and looks at you crazy. He has great hands. But again it's the scouting department, and Sam Presti. They don't have the luxury of getting big free agents because the owner will open up the pocketbook because they don't care about the luxury tax. ... I love everything about OKC because they remind me a lot of my 18 years in Indiana. They play in a small market. They are really the only show in town. Although we had the Colts, they didn't really come on until I retired. When you're the only show in town, they live and die through your every game. That's what makes it so special.”
Is this the year your Pacers overtake the Heat as the top team in the East?
“Barring an injury, these two teams are headed for a collision course in the Eastern Conference. Just looking at the landscape, there are only four teams at .500 or above. The Eastern Conference sucks. Having said that, I would make take Miami and/or Indiana and you guys could have the field. That's how good I feel about those two teams. The Pacers have to stay healthy. They're young. They are going to have to build up a disdain, a hatred, for the Heat. That's the only way you can mentally beat them, when a team has beaten you twice in a row in the playoffs ... I don't think Miami is really concerning themselves about that No. 1 seed because they believe they can go into Indiana and steal a game. Indiana, they play hard and they have something a lot of teams don't have, that rim protector in (Roy) Hibbert. I don't know if (Greg) Oden is going to be the answer (for the Heat). They are probably going to make a run for Andrew Bynum. Paul George (Indiana forward) has to be the best player on the floor going against Miami. That's saying a lot when you're going against the best player in the world in LeBron James.”