If gratitude were currency, then Darius Miles might have already bought himself a multiyear deal with the Celtics.
A player reborn at age 27 after six seasons in the league, and two more on the periphery rehabbing a career-threatening knee injury, the 6-foot-9 wingman never hesitates to gush over how thrilled he is to be wearing No. 7 for the Green.
"This is amazing to me," he said. "From where I came [in Portland], it's like a light shining on me. I came from a big old rainstorm, and it's like the sun is out now."
Sincere enthusiasm alone, though, won't earn Miles a spot on the opening-night roster. In many ways, he still plays the same McDonald's All-American style he played in high school and early in his career with the Clippers, Cavaliers, and Trail Blazers. Celtics coach Doc Rivers made it clear in training camp that style won't fit with the defending NBA champions.
Miles says he realizes that and, perhaps more slowly but surely, he is incorporating that mental approach into his game.
"Consistency and defense is all I think about," he said following back-to-back preseason games last weekend. "With this defense, I've got to be consistent. The offense, I really don't care about to be totally real, because I'm not in that position here. I used to be in that position where I was a one or two option. I'm not a one or two option here. I'm not any kind of option on this team. The defensive end is where they want me to do it, and that's what I want to do."
He didn't do it Friday night in Providence and that's a likely reason he spent only a little more than three nondescript minutes on the court against the Cavaliers. It looked as if it might be another short night on Saturday in Manchester, N.H., when Miles finally got the call in the fourth quarter against the Rockets.
At last, he responded in the way he says he wants to so badly. Though he didn't score in nine minutes, he grabbed four rebounds, was active on defense, and teamed with Glen Davis for the decisive defensive stop in the final seconds.
"I know he knows how to play," said Rivers, whose praise of Miles was lukewarm during camp. "He has a really good basketball IQ. His shot is improving. I thought he got better as training camp went on. My guess is that he'll get better as the games go on. We can't forget he's been out of the league for a while."
Miles, facing a 10-game suspension to start the season for using a banned diet drug -- a charge he denies -- insists he will try to make good on the chance to return with the defending champs.
"I'm just happy and blessed to be in this position," he said. "Whether it's for two months, or whether it's for a whole season, I want to show every single day I'm with the team, every time I'm on the court, that defense is what I will concentrate on. That's what I feel will make me make this team."
O'Bryant gets schooled
With Kendrick Perkins out the first two weeks of the preseason, free-agent pickup Patrick O'Bryant had a chance to run with the starters. For the most part, the center took advantage, contributing some nice scoring and rebounding in the first three exhibition games.
Like Miles, though, he is quickly finding out he needs to do more.
"He clearly gives you the first effort, and he's thinking about doing the second and the third," Rivers said. "We've got to get him to get to that. He hasn't played a lot in his career. That's another thing we can't forget as a coaching staff. And he definitely hasn't played the way we play. I just think it's going to take time."
O'Bryant, whom Warriors coach Don Nelson mocked in the press at times during his two years with Golden State, said he appreciates the amount of times Rivers has been in his ear.
"He's been helping me out with a lot of stuff, just making sure I get to the right rotation and get to the right spots on offense," the 7-footer said. "He's been reinforcing some of the spots where he's been teaching to make sure I get them done in games, too."
Scott Souza covers the Celtics for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This week's OT cover
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