Mercury’s Miller Happy to Be Playing Again
East Valley Tribune
June 21, 2006
She couldn't remember missing a game or practice through high school, college or the pros, so when Kelly Miller sat out seven games and twice as many practices with a torn hamstring, keeping herself sane wasn't easy.
After a week of drills and limited practicing, the shackles finally came off Sunday for the Mercury point guard. She played 11 minutes in the loss to Minnesota, and finished with six points, a rebound, an assist and a steal.
Though nervous about testing herself in the rigors of game speed, she declared herself pain-free this week, and, as the Mercury play at Seattle tonight, will likely start seeing more minutes.
Jen Derevjanik — claimed off waivers by the Mercury after the regular season opener — and rookie Crystal Smith drew praise for their play from the coaches . Consequently, Miller is happy to have the coaches worry about divvying up playing time among the three point guards.
"Jen's done a great job of running this team, especially in the short time she's been here," Miller said.
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Mercury coach Paul Westhead wants another game or two for Miller to ease her way back. The medical staff wanted Westhead to keep Miller's playing time below 12 minutes in the early stages of her return.
In a couple games, Westhead said Miller will return to being the starting point guard, and wants her to be effective for about 30 minutes per game. What this means for Derevjanik's and Smith's playing time is unclear, but Westhead said all three will see minutes, and noted Miller's scoring ability allows her to play a few minutes at shooting guard.
"She's just natural for what we want to do," Westhead said.
ON ROAD AGAIN
Sunday's loss to Minnesota could have been viewed as a "trap" game, with Phoenix fresh off a big win at home over Connecticut and the Lynx fresh off a 30-point pasting by San Antonio.
But the team didn't buy this theory when they returned to work Tuesday.
The Mercury are 0-5 on the road thus far, and though they've beaten the likes of Sacramento and Connecticut, it hasn't translated to hostile environments.
Getting off to a quick start could be key tonight. The Mercury felt they never gave themselves a chance in Minneapolis, falling behind 29-16 after the first quarter.
No matter how well they play at US Airways Center (they're 3-2 at home), winning some road games is the only hope of getting a playoff spot in August.
"In the basketball world it's like going to the foul line and missing," Westhead said. "If they're missing they start thinking about it. We try not to accentuate the need to win a road game, just 'Let's go play well enough to win the game.' We played well enough to win at Seattle (June 2), we can't say that about L.A. and Minnesota."
With 32 points against the Mercury on Sunday, Lynx rookie Seimone Augustus pushed her season total to 221 points, the most in league history by a rookie after 10 games. Cappie Pondexter, the Mercury's rookie, has 199 points after nine games, which means she needs 22 points tonight to match Augustus' total. Pondexter averages 22.1 points per game.
COPYRIGHT 2006, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.