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Miller is out to prove himself

Cleveland guard eager to establish the real deal

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Around a year ago, when he was making the summer-league rounds with his new pro team, Andre Miller was the shy guy just trying to make an impression.

This time around, Miller is the shy guy out to show that his impressive accomplishments over the past year are the real deal.

The former University of Utah point guard hopes to do so by starting to play much more of a leadership role with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected him eighth overall in the 1999 NBA Draft.

To do that, Miller intends to "be more talkative." He's even willing to talk about it.

"My first year, I just kind of watched and learned from everybody else," Miller said. "But now I think I earned the respect of some people, so they're going to expect me to speak up more."

The opportunity to do more of just that will come when training camp opens in October. For now, though, Miller is simply keeping busy while working to show his rookie season in the NBA was no fluke.

He is doing so with outstanding play in the Rocky Mountain Revue, a summer league comprised primarily of players hoping to secure what Miller already has: not just a place on the roster but an integral role to go with it.

When the Cavs drafted Miller, they already had a point guard. Brevin Knight was their first-round pick in 1997, and he went into the 1990-2000 season with a starting assignment that seemed to be secure.

Then injury struck Knight, and the door opened for Miller. He stepped right in, using steady-if-not-spectacular play to earn a place, by midseason, in the All-Star Weekend Rookie Challenge game in Oakland.

That was just one highlight in a season of many: Miller had his old uniform number retired at Utah, scored a game-high 21 points in the Rookie Challenge and was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

"I just tried to come in and help the team out, and I playing enough minutes to where I made the rookie team," said Miller, who also posted a 28-point, 10-rebound, 12-assist triple-double in a February game against Atlanta. "It came from hard work, and working on my game."

Miller continues that work this week, as he plays in a nine-team, nine-day Revue league in which he is clearly the best point guard participating. He didn't really need to prove anything by playing but decided to take advantage of the opportunity to hone his game in his old back yard while spending time with family still in town.

He's doing it quite well, too, evidenced by the game-high 23-point, 7-assist performance he had in Cleveland's 72-66 victory over the Jazz on Monday night at Salt Lake Community College's Redwood Road campus.

It's the kind of play Miller used not only to fill in adequately while Knight was injured but also the sort that allowed him, even after Knight came back, to start 36 of Cleveland's final 37 games of the season.

Now, instead of playing second fiddle, Miller goes into the season as a projected starter — and comes off an offseason in which Knight has been the subject of various trade rumors, prompting many to believe the Cavaliers consider Miller their top point guard for years to come.

On this subject, Miller says only the right things.

"Nothing's going to be given to me," he said. "I still have to go out there and earn it, and earn respect from all the players and people around the league.

"It doesn't really matter who starts," Miller added. "I'm just looking at as going in and trying to be vocal, and trying to assume some kind of role on the team."

And just to make sure you don't get the wrong impression, Miller adds this:

"I think they have a lot of faith in Brevin (Knight). You know, he's a great player; I'd hate to see him leave, because he's helped me out so much," he said. "It would help if he stayed, because we play well together, and we make the team click better."

NOTES:Kiwane Garris, a free-agent guard out of the University of Illinois, had a team-high 15 points for the Jazz in their loss to Cleveland. Garris, who had a stint with the Denver Nuggets during the 1997-98 season and played 44 games for the Grand Rapids Hoops of the CBA last season, hit 5-of-8 from the field and tied DeShawn Stevenson for assist honors with four. . . . Stevenson scored 8 points, and David Benoit and Scott Padgett added 9 each for the Jazz, which is now 1-2 in the Revue. . . . In other games Monday, Steve Jackson scored 19 points to lead Vancouver over Phoenix 84-76 and Charles Smith and Ryan Robertson had 20 for Sacramento in its 82-70 victory over Dallas. . . . Dirk Nowitzki had a double-double for the Mavericks, scoring 15 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. . . . Weber State product Eddie Gill rebounded from a scoreless effort in his first Revue game to put up 15 points and dish six assists in 29 minutes for the Suns on Monday. . . . Utah resumes Revue play tonight, facing Houston at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally by ESPN. Four games are scheduled today and tonight, ending with Toronto against Chicago after the Jazz-Rockets game ends. Day-pass admission, available at the door, costs $5.


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com