MILES BUYS IN

C. J. MILES IS A GIFTED 3-POINT SHOOTER WHO CAN DRAW AT­TEN­TION, BUT HIS MAIN CON­CERN IS THE END RE­SULT, NOT WHO DOES THE MOST TO SE­CURE VIC­TORY

National Post (Latest Edition) - - SPORTS - Ryan Wol­stat @Wol­statSun

When C.J. Miles looks back on 2017, it will be as a lifechang­ing year that saw his world com­pletely re­shaped.

In a new coun­try, along­side play­ers he didn’t know, but has since grown a bond with and, most im­por­tantly, with his wife, Lau­ren, and a healthy, new­born baby girl, Ava.

Miles could have thought twice be­fore ac­cept­ing a three- year of­fer worth US$ 25 mil­lion back in July in a sign- and- trade deal to the Toronto Rap­tors from the In­di­ana Pac­ers.

Af­ter all, he and Lau­ren were well aware at the time that as he tried to ad­just to his new team, a baby would be ar­riv­ing in a for­eign land, with­out much fam­ily sup­port close by (both hail from Texas). He knew there would be other life-chang­ing fi­nan­cial of­fers. They didn’t have to pick Toronto.

And maybe if Calvin Miles Jr. wasn’t raised by Calvin Sr., a preacher who would toss his son’s rap CDs out the win­dow be­cause he didn’t like the curs­ing, or didn’t get an early NBA ed­u­ca­tion at the school of hard knocks by the all- busi­ness Jerry Sloan, he might have pri­or­i­tized other things upon be­com­ing a free agent.

But Miles, like those who in­flu­enced him the most along the way, prizes pro­fes­sion­al­ism and takes his work ex­tremely se­ri­ously. He cred­its the ul­tra- tough Sloan, who once fa­mously said of the then teenager: “We can’t put di­a­pers on him one night, and a jock­strap the next,” for in­still­ing in him the knowl­edge he would need to last for well over a decade in the NBA.

“It was one of the great­est things for me as a young guy to play for some of that old school, strict, bring your lunch pail to work, teach you how to work, teach you how to learn … I think that’s one of the big­gest rea­sons I’ve been here as long as I am, be­cause I came in un­der him,” Miles says.

In the Rap­tors, Miles, who had only once ad­vanced to a con­fer­ence fi­nal, saw a ris­ing force in the East.

“I’ve never made a de­ci­sion on my ca­reer based off out­side of bas­ket­ball,” Miles ex­plained be­fore a re­cent pre-game shootaround.

“My first takes on any sit­u­a­tion are will I be able to play well, will I fit there, what are they try­ing to do, are they try­ing to win? How is the or­ga­ni­za­tion? Other guys that played there, did they like it and that’s what I’m look­ing at. And it ( Toronto) checked off ev­ery box,” he said.

He also liked the per­cep­tion that this was some sort of an un­der­dog club, a sleep­ing gi­ant, ter­mi­nol­ogy team pres­i­dent Ma­sai Ujiri has used in the past.

Miles made it clear how he felt about the per­ceived “dis­re­spect” even back at train­ing camp, say­ing that from the out­side Toronto felt like “an elite team,” one that the me­dia were in­ex­pli­ca­bly ig­nor­ing in sea­son pre­view pieces.

“Sec­ond or third in the East ( in 2016-17) and now they don’t even say your name, like, how does that hap­pen?” he said.

Out­side shooting was al­ways in the Miles tool box, but it has been a long jour­ney to mak­ing it his most noted trait.

When he started out he was known as an ath­lete who could shoot a bit, but he didn’t fire up a ton of three­p­oint­ers. About a third of his shots would come from be­yond the arc.

Miles only hit 12 threes over his first two sea­sons, while still a teenager in Utah. The Dal­las na­tive had never be­fore seen snow and says he got into an ac­ci­dent his sec­ond day driv­ing there, slid­ing into a pole by his house.

He pushed it to 30 threes in Year 3, then dou­bled that. But by Year 7 in Utah, Miles di­aled way back on his out­side at­tempts as his jumper abandoned him and in­juries im­pacted his game.

Miles was at a cru­cial in­ter­sec­tion of his ca­reer. His con­tract was up. He was com­ing off of a dread­ful sea­son and had yet to find his NBA niche.

The Cleve­land Cava­liers took a chance, hand­ing out a small, two-year deal.

It was there that Miles evolved into a three- point spe­cial­ist. Head coach Mike Brown en­cour­aged Miles to go a step fur­ther in his fi­nal year with the Cavs, telling him to hone in on that spe­cific skill while in the gym, to take ad­van­tage of his nat­u­ral pro­fi­ciency from be­yond the arc.

Miles paid at­ten­tion, tak­ing ev­ery type of three-pointer you could imag­ine in his work­outs from then on, and, as a model of con­sis­tency, would av­er­age 2.2 three­p­oint makes a game in each of his three sea­sons with the Pac­ers be­fore the Rap­tors came call­ing.

And while it hasn’t been a seam­less fit yet, Miles is av­er­ag­ing more three- point makes than ever ( in fewer min­utes) and is hit­ting them at a solid clip.

“If he misses 20 in a row, we still want him to shoot the next 20 be­cause we know what he can do,” all- star guard Kyle Lowry said re­cently.

At 30, Miles is the sec­on­dold­est player on the team, be­hind only Lowry. He plays pre­dom­i­nantly with team­mates in their early-20s on what has be­come one of the NBA’s premier sec­ond units. His role is to both stretch the floor for a group with some shooting is­sues, and to trans­fer the vast knowl­edge col­lected over the years to the kids.

“You want the youth­ful en­ergy, but then you want that ex­pe­ri­ence in there to kind of guide us a lit­tle bit, to keep an even keel, to be that rock when things aren’t go­ing right,” says point guard Fred VanVleet.

Ahead of what ev­ery­body knew would be a piv­otal 2017- 18 sea­son due to en­hanced ex­pec­ta­tions for the re­serves and the talk of a cul­tural re­shap­ing, a num­ber of Rap­tors worked out to­gether this sum­mer in Los Angeles.

Miles made sure he was there.

“He was around this sum­mer more than he prob­a­bly had to be,” Van Vleet said.

“He didn’ t play much with us, but he came to a few din­ners. He was around, we all gelled right away, it was like he was a part of the group. It didn’t take any time to force it, it was just nat­u­ral.”

Just don’t call him “Bench Dad.” Miles isn’t a fan of that nick­name, mostly be­cause he doesn’t want to bring at­ten­tion to him­self or be sin­gled out as big­ger than any­body else. His main con­cern is al­ways the end re­sult, not who did the most to se­cure a vic­tory.

Ear­lier in the sea­son, VanVleet said he al­most felt “guilty” when he spot­ted up for a wide open three, know­ing Miles was be­ing keyed on, based on his rep­u­ta­tion.

For some rea­son, a high num­ber of Rap­tors play­ers hail­ing from Dal­las or nearby have been among the most gen­er­ous with their time, in­ter­est­ing and forth­right with the me­dia over the years. Chris Bosh, Quincy Acy, T. J. Ford, to name three, and now Miles.

“Must be that South­ern hospi­tal­ity,” Miles says with a laugh.

In turn, Miles and his fam­ily have been met with all kinds of north­ern hospi­tal­ity.

“It’s different here, it’s a whole coun­try ( back­ing the Rap­tors), it’s a mas­sive fol­low­ing,” he says, smil­ing widely.

“It’s amaz­ing to see just how amaz­ing the peo­ple have been, how they’ve ac­cepted my­self, my wife, even Ava. Peo­ple are ask­ing about her in the drug­store. It’s not just like, ‘ Oh man, shoot some more threes.’ ”

Of course, as Lowry says, Miles has a per­ma­nent “ul­tra green light” to do just that.

JAY MET­ZGER/ NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES FILE

C. J. Miles, who has only once ad­vanced to a con­fer­ence fi­nal, sees the Rap­tors as a ris­ing force in the East.

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