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Andre Miller ‘surprised’ Wizards traded him to Kings

Andre Miller believes he was a bit of a scapegoat when the Wizards hit a cold spell. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

In search of a spark for the remainder of this season and stability behind John Wall beyond it, the Washington Wizards elected to exchange backup point guards with the Sacramento Kings hours before the trade deadline last month. Out went Andre Miller. In came Ramon Sessions.

The Wizards valued Sessions’s aggressiveness. They envisioned his ability to attack the basket and earn trips to the free-throw line invigorating a second unit in desperate need of a scoring punch. Miller is a crafty pass-first point guard that helped Washington reach the second round of the playoffs last spring but the second unit had stalled under his watch and the Wizards were plummeting in the standings. So the move was made.

Sitting in the visitors’ locker room at Verizon Center before taking on his former team Saturday night, Miller admitted he was “surprised” the Wizards traded him. He understood Washington’s motivation –Sessions is 10 years younger and more of a scorer – but he hinted that he was made a scapegoat for the Wizards’ roughest stretch of the season.

“You make a couple changes in the rotation and then we started losing games,” said Miller, who was taken out of the rotation for a few games prior to the trade. “I guess I got the bad end of the stick. For a guy to only play 10 minutes a game you figure why would I be the one to get moved? But I try not to individualize it. I try to look at it as a team kind of hit a stretch where we struggled a little bit.”

Miller’s workload has drastically increased since reuniting with Kings Coach George Karl, his boss with the Denver Nuggets. The oldest player to appear in an NBA game this season, Miller, who celebrates his 39th birthday on Wednesday, is averaging 23.1 minutes in 13 games with the Kings after averaging 12.4 minutes in 51 games with the Wizards.

Karl, hired last month as the Kings’ third coach this season, admitted he would like to reduce Miller’s workload but Miller didn’t appear in need of a respite early on Saturday. He flawlessly orchestrated a Kings offense after checking in to an ovation in the first quarter, recording four assists over the first quarter’s final five minutes. He compiled three more to tie the season high he set with the Wizards before he was taken out halfway through the quarter.

But Miller didn’t record another assist and finished the night shooting 1 of 6 from the floor in 22 minutes. The Wizards would rally from a 21-point second-half deficit to win 113-97.

The Kings, who concluded an exhausting eight-game road trip Saturday, are 4-9 since the trade. Washington hasn’t been much better; the Wizards are 5-7 but have won three straight games. Sessions, 28, had three points and two assists in 14 minutes Saturday.

He is averaging 6.2 points and 2.6 assists in 16.4 minutes with the Wizards. Sessions, who has also played alongside, Wall, is shooting just 33.8 percent from the field but is averaging 5.7 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes and is shooting 83.9 percent from the charity stripe. Based on defensive real-plus minus – a metric used to quantify defensive impact – Sessions is a downgrade from Miller. Sessions ranks 76 out of 79 while Miller is ranked 45th.

“Andre was a valuable piece for us, what he did on the floor and in the locker room,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “It’s always tough when you have to give that up. But we’re pleased with where Ramon is and what he’s doing and getting comfortable in what we’re doing. It’s a growing thing with Ramon and each day he seems to get more and more comfortable.”

Sessions has another year on his contract and figures to remain as Wall’s backup. Miller is in the final year of his deal but then trade didn’t change his plans: Miller’s goal has been to play until he is 40 and he reiterated he wants to play beyond this season.

“Every player wants to get a ring but there’s a lot of players that have come through this league that haven’t gotten rings,” Miller said. “Whether it happens or not, most likely the chances are slim, so I try to find opportunities to get on teams where I can help a team and the young guys get better and show some leadership.”


The Wizards are idle Sunday and next host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night at Verizon Center before beginning a four-game road trip out West. The Trail Blazers (42-20) will be coming off a Sunday matchup against the Toronto Raptors.