ORLANDO - Six months ago, the 76ers were talking as if Andre Miller was a necessity, as though having a team without him would be like walking into the gym without a ball. Today, it seems he has become an aging veteran, one to whom the Sixers don't want to attach themselves for an extended period of time.
Or that's how the story was told yesterday, the official opening day of NBA free agency: The 33-year-old Miller and his agent, Andy Miller, want a contract in the three-year, $30-million range, while the Sixers are thinking more in the one-year, $6-million range.
If those numbers are accurate, the two camps really are standing on opposite baselines.
"We're in a situation where we have a young nucleus of guys who have playoff experience, but we're going to grow with them," said Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski. "And to go long term on a contract with an older point guard, we don't see that as being a viable option."
"I'm disappointed by where we are at this point," said Miller's agent. "I think you can categorize my feelings as disappointment. I think there were better intentions during the year than there seem to be right now. I don't think there are ulterior motives, it's just with all things hitting right now. . . we're genuinely far apart and that's why I categorize it as disappointing."
Andy Miller said he is having "multiple conversations" with teams about potential sign-and-trades, as well as conversations about his client "just walking" to another team.
"I would say that his value around the league right now is high," Miller said. "Will the Sixers , at the end of the day, value him higher?"
On Tuesday night, the NBA released the 2009-10 salary-cap numbers, which decreased from the 2008-09 season. This year's salary cap is $57.7 million, down from $58.68 million, with a tax level of $69.92 million - meaning any team whose salary exceeds this figure pays $1 tax for each $1 exceeded. Last season's tax level was $71.15 million.
And considering it's plausible those numbers could fall again next season, some teams like the Sixers could be wary of signing players to multiyear contracts.
The Sixers' approximate offer to Miller of $6 million, which is right in line with this year's mid-level exception of $5.85 million, appears to put them right at the tax level, above which they're taxed dollar for dollar.
"We have made an offer to Andre and Andy Miller," Stefanski said. "But they're looking for a better offer from other places. And I'd say right now we're in the mode of if there is a sign-and-trade that makes sense for both parties."
In the last few days, Mike Bibby and Jason Kidd, a couple of other older point guards, have each committed to three-year deals: Bibby for $6 million per from the Atlanta Hawks, Kidd for about $8.3 million per from the Dallas Mavericks.
Do these other longer contracts affect Stefanski's thinking about Miller? "To me it's a market for Andre Miller, not what other people get," Stefanski said.
If no sign-and-trade arrangement can be worked out, or if eventually Miller walks, Stefanski said he feels confident giving backup guard Lou Williams a chance to run the team.
"Lou Williams is going to have an opportunity here. We've been grooming him for four years," Stefanski said. "We gave him a contract last year to play Basketball, so he'll have a great opportunity."
Stefanski said the Sixers would also look to see how first-round pick Jrue Holiday progresses, as well as "obviously going out and looking for a guy at that position, too."
Added Stefanski: "I think we'd look for a veteran who would help and compete for that starting position."
So are Miller's days as a Sixer over?
"We're going to look at options," said Andy Miller. "But we hope the intent is cooler heads will prevail. . . ."
Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or email@example.com.