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Sunday, May 23, 2004
Brown has been lobbying for clutch shooter

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- If USA basketball coach Larry Brown had his way, Reggie Miller would be making clutch 3-pointers -- like the one he hit in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals -- in Athens this summer.

Miller said Sunday that he's flattered by Brown's desire to have him on the Olympic team, but wavered on whether he would accept an invitation.

"I'm a little too old for that," the 38-year-old Miller said. "It's quite an honor. I'm not saying no. But right now I'm just in the moment in the Eastern Conference finals. I'll evaluate everything after this."'

Miller showed everyone why he would be an asset to the Olympic team on Saturday night at Brown's expense.

After missing his first six shots from the field, he drilled a 3-pointer with 31.7 seconds left to propel his Indiana Pacers to a 78-74 win over Brown's Detroit Pistons and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Before Game 1, Brown said he had been "begging" the USA basketball selection committee to pick Miller because he would bring veteran leadership and an uncanny ability to make the big shot.

"He would be great with all the guys leaving," Brown said.

Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Vince Carter have all withdrawn citing injuries, fatigue or family issues.

Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady and Mike Bibby are also on the fence, something Miller has a hard time understanding.

"I know a lot of guys are dropping out, which is very unfortunate," Miller said.

He said winning an NBA title is the only honor greater than playing for your country and the fact that so many top players have decided to pass will weigh heavily in his decision.

Miller has plenty of experience playing under international rules, which are different from the NBA game. He played for U.S. teams at the 1996 Olympics and the 2002 World Championships.

Brown's team could include Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, McGrady, Richard Jefferson, Bibby, LeBron James, Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire -- none of whom has any Olympic experience.

Aside from his age, the biggest thing that appears to be holding Miller back from wholeheartedly embracing the idea is the chance of injury.

At the 2002 World Championships, Miller badly injured his right ankle, which led to a miserable season last year.

"I hurt my ankle the second time around, which made me a step slower," he said.

He missed the first 12 games of the 2002-03 season while recovering and never regained his old form.

To top it off, Miller had his worst playoff performance of his career in a first-round loss to Boston, the Pacers' third straight first-round playoff exit.

This year has been entirely different. With coach Rick Carlisle closely monitoring his minutes and the ankle feeling good again, Miller is once again a factor for the Pacers.

His improved health, coupled with the chance to represent his country under Brown, who coached him with the Pacers from 1993-97, might be enough to sway the sharpshooter.

Brown can only hope.

"He's the best I've ever seen," Brown said of Miller's ability to make clutch shots. "You let up on him one time and he kills you."