Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press file photo
The Nuggets’ three-pronged plan for the summer is to redo Ty Lawson’s deal, sign restricted free agent JaVale McGee and keep veteran point guard Andre Miller in Denver.
That last item seemed a bit of a stretch after Miller indicated over the weekend that if he were going to remain a backup at this point in his career, it might as well be with a championship contender.
The Nuggets don’t fit that bill just yet, but they are a team on the rise, growing with a young core of players that includes Lawson, McGee, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Arron Afflalo.
Theirs was the youngest team to reach the Western Conference playoffs, where they pushed the star-studded Lakers to seven games.
General manager Masai Ujiri said Thursday that Miller, an unrestricted free agent who will be entering his 14th season in the NBA, told him he wants to stay in Denver.
“I had a great meeting with Andre Miller a couple of days ago, and he told us plain and simple he wants to come back, and he wants to play here,” Ujiri said. “I think Andre’s comments are more he wants to be respected as a veteran, which we feel he has to be respected as a veteran.”
Which means, showing him the big bucks. Miller’s $7.8-million salary in 2011-12 was tops on the team.
“I think he means that he’s played in the league 13 years, and he’s been a starter,” Ujiri said. “So, I don’t want to go into details there, but I think Andre does not want to be disrespected in terms of, I don’t think it’s his teammates, I think he loved the role that he played, so I think it’s contract. And we’ll figure it out.”
Ujiri said Miller came to embrace his role coming off the bench and running a more freestyle tempo, which, it turns out, worked great with Faried and McGee, who was acquired from Washington in a deadline deal for center Nenê.
Miller told him that splitting time with Lawson kept some wear and tear off his 35-year-old body, Ujiri said.
Miller averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 27.4 minutes during the regular season. All of those numbers ticked upward in the playoffs, when the Nuggets turned to Miller and Al Harrington for veteran leadership against the Lakers.
Other than redoing Lawson’s deal and working out deals with Miller and McGee, Ujiri said he expects a rather uneventful offseason.
“Yeah, there will be one or two changes here or there. We don’t know if it’s going to be little, but our goal here is to be patient now and let this team grow and have some continuity and see how it pans out,” he said. “Collectively, we feel we’re on the right track.”
McGee made less than $2.5 million last season and is in line for a big payday this summer, especially after a couple of outstanding performances in the playoffs that left L.A.’s 7-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol flustered and helped fuel Denver’s thrilling playoff series with the Lakers.
“We were happy, but there’s still a lot of work to do” for the big man to capitalize on his superior size and athleticism, Ujiri said.
“There’s some bad habits we’re going to have to change, but that’s coaching, and that’s mentoring, and we feel like we’re in a position where we can help the kid.
“So, we saw him a certain way, that’s kind of why we were intrigued by bringing him here. The style of play I think also favors him, running, the lobs, the rebounding, blocking shots and creating opportunities for our team. I think he’s showing that a little bit. The contract, that’s our job. We have to figure out a way to do it.”