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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Mike Miller hopes to stay with Heat

By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com

MIAMI -- Guard Mike Miller walked gingerly out of the Miami Heat locker room on Tuesday and spoke with the media for the first time since undergoing hernia surgery last week.

Amid speculation that the 12-year veteran might be released by the team using a proposed amnesty provision, Miller said he spoke with Heat president Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra earlier this week about his status with the team. And although he wouldn't definitively state the Heat's plans on whether to cut him, Miller was hopeful he would remain with the team.

"They're going to handle it the way they have to," Miller said, wearing a Heat warm-up shirt. "And right now, it seems like I'm pretty secure, but I'm just going to prepare myself to be ready to play where it is."

Technically, the Heat cannot use the amnesty clause to release the 31-year-old just yet because the new collective bargaining agreement has not officially been agreed upon. And it's unlikely the team has made the final decision on Miller before surveying the free agency landscape.

Even though Miller stated he felt "pretty secure" about his situation, Miller may have unintentionally revealed the Heat's thinking at the moment. When asked about whether he was amused by the swirling speculation, the oft-traded player responded with a smile.

"Listen, I've been in this league now 12 years. I have been traded 675 times -- well, first time that I've been amnesty-ed -- but you get used to it," he said.

Miller may have been referring to experiencing amnesty speculation for the first time, not that he's already been told he has been released. Miller said he wouldn't let the speculation bother him during his rehabilitation.

"To be honest with you, I can't really worry about (the amnesty provision talk)," Miller said. "I have to worry about getting healthy, being 100 percent and be able to do the things I know I'm capable of doing. I've prepared myself to play every year, whether it's where I'm at or a different place, that's how I've always looked at it. You put yourself in the best situation to succeed when you're there."

Teammate Udonis Haslem told the media last Thursday that Miller, a close friend and former college roommate, had recently undergone surgery to repair a sports hernia and that he would be out eight weeks.

The Heat are not allowed to comment on Miller's injury status because the end of the lockout has not been officially finalized, but Miller's words certainly didn't seem to express full confidence that he will return to the court faster than the eight-week timetable that Haslem stated last week. The Heat are slated to open the season against the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day at 2:30 p.m. ET.

"We don't have a timeframe on it," Miller said. "Obviously, the sooner the better. I'm aiming for Christmas Day but they might tell you something different."

The Heat have an interesting decision to make when free agency begins. Miller has four years and $24 million remaining on his contract with a player option in 2014-15. The proposed amnesty clause allows teams to release a player and not have their salary count against the cap or luxury tax line. However, under the proposed deal, the team would still be required to pay the remaining salary.

Aside from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Miller's contract is currently the most expensive one on the Heat's books at $5.4 million this season. In order to make a significant signing in free agency, the Heat may be forced to cut Miller and free up some cap space to possibly shore up holes at the point guard and center positions.

Miller underwent surgeries on his shoulder and thumb after the conclusion of the 2010-11 season. He also underwent surgery on his thumb in the preseason after getting it caught in a jersey in practice. And he was treated for concussion symptoms in Boston last season.

As a veteran sharpshooter, Miller was expected to complement his ball-dominant superstar teammates, but he struggled to shoot with accuracy with battered thumbs. He played in just 41 regular-season games and averaged a career-low 5.6 points per game on 40.1 percent shooting.

Faced with a shortened season due to the lockout, Miller spoke cryptically about whether he'd play in Miami or not this, making his case why the team would need him during a season jam-packed with games on short rest.

"If I'm here and a part of this, they're going to need me to help," Miller said. "Because obviously you're going to have to spread minutes out."

The amnesty speculation was further fueled this offseason when Miller put his home in Broward County, north of Miami, up for sale over the summer. On Tuesday, Miller denied that the decision had anything to do with his status with the team.

Free agency is currently set to open on Friday when training camps officially open, but the league is still determining whether camps will open as scheduled.

Tom Haberstroh covers the Heat for ESPN.com.