SALT LAKE CITY — Nuggets coach Brian Shaw has held Andre Miller in high esteem since the University of Utah’s run to the NCAA finals in 1998.
“I followed him since he was here (at Utah) playing for Rick Majerus. I was really a fan of his,” Shaw said prior to Monday’s game between the Nuggets and Jazz. “I admired him from afar with that team when they played the University of Arizona, and the fact that he could kind of will that team as far as he did.”
Almost 16 years after Miller led the Utes past the Wildcats in the Elite Eight, Shaw said he still holds Miller in high regard.
You just wouldn’t know it by what recently happened in Denver.
Miller yelled at the Nuggets’ rookie coach during a New Year’s Day game and has been on paid leave away from the team since the outburst. The 37-year-old hasn’t played in the last six contests for Denver.
“He’s dealing with what he needs to deal with. I’m focusing on the team and what’s best for the team right now,” Shaw said. “As I’ve said, I’m willing to coach any(body) and everybody who wants to put the team first. I have nothing but respect for him.”
It’s possible — perhaps likely — that Miller won’t play again for Denver, where the 15-year veteran has been since 2011. The Denver Post recently reported that the former Ute star is on the trading block.
“It’s really everybody else on the outside (who) has blown it up and made it bigger than what it really is,” Shaw claimed. “So, right now it’s pretty much between him and our front office and his agent to deal with what happens next. I’m just focusing on our guys that are here and our opponents that we have to face.”
The 47-year-old Shaw, who won three NBA titles with the Lakers during his 14-year playing career, admitted he regretted how things soured with Miller. The point guard, who’s averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 assists, had a 239-game streak snapped after the tirade that came at the end of Denver’s eight-game losing skid.
“It’s unfortunate what happened to us,” Shaw said. “It’s tough when you get towards the end of your career and things don’t go the way they always have or the way that you would like them to.”
HAYWARD OUT: Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward missed his second consecutive game with a left hip flexor. There is some hope that the fourth-year player will return sooner than later.
“I think he’s getting better every day,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said before Monday’s game. “He’s a little better today than he was yesterday.”
The Jazz next play Wednesday at San Antonio. Hayward will be a game-time decision.
HIGH PRAISE: Shaw spoke highly of Hayward, Utah’s leading scorer. The Denver coach said he appreciates how the swingman can shoot from the perimeter, attack the basket, get to the free-throw line and facilitate to teammates.
“Just one of the most well-rounded players that we have in the league in terms of his versatility,” Shaw said. “He’s the main focus of the offense here. He’s a big part of what they do. And he’s also a winner. From what he’s done in college (at Butler) to just the way he approaches and plays the game, it’s a big loss for them.”