Talk ‘N Text import Ivan Johnson wasn’t happy at all after Willie Miller gave Chico Lanete the open lane for two straight possessions in the second quarter.
Miller did it for the third time, and after Lanete scored, Johnson finally had enough.
“Let’s play some defense! You’re better than that,” Johnson shouted in the face of Miller, venting his ire while feeling there is no reason to let up even with the Tropang Texters ahead by more than 20 points.
Johnson’s facial expression was full of wrath that he would have just smothered Miller if he wanted to, but by halftime, the two were seen laughing excessively, as the former two-time PBA Most Valuable Player once again cracked a joke:
“Sorry man, it’s an off night for my defense.”
In the second half, Miller instigated even more fun to happen while on the bench. It is the Tropang Texters’ ritual to do “high-threes” (a variation of the high-five where the players are forming a three sign) whenever the team knocks down a triple. For each trey the Tropang Texters’ hit, Miller gets on his feet, roams around the entire bench to slap fingers with the rest of his teammates.
On some occasions he even shoves his hand to his teammates’ faces, showing them they hit a three, literally.
“Touch as many players as you can while having the three sign. Automatic kulitan yun. Masaya e. Minsan sa tenga, minsan sa mukha,” Miller shared, smiling as usual.
Talk ‘N Text went on to crush Barako Bull, 127-97 to punch a ticket to the semi-finals. Johnson had 35 points and 15 rebounds, nailing six of his 11 attempts from deep. Miller meanwhile, was scoreless and missed his only attempt in limited play.
Being in a heated affair with an import due to his funny antics is nothing new for Miller. Rafe Bartholemew once detailed in his book Pacific Rims how former Alaska import Roe Ellis got angered by Miller’s jovial attitude, accusing him of not taking practice and the championship series seriously. In the end, Alaska would win the 2007 Fiesta Conference title, with Ellis and Miller having their photos taken together.
“Kailangan e. Kailangan buo kayo. Pagdating ng laro kailangan maayos ang chemistry niyo and it starts naman sa labas e. May time na masaya, may time na kailangan magseryoso ka,” Miller said on why he acts that way ever since.
Now 37 years old and with multiple championships and individual accolades across his storied PBA career, Miller doesn’t wow people with his numbers anymore. After all, he doesn’t have to and it is not just because they have guys like Jayson Castro and Kevin Alas. He doesn’t have to impress because his impact goes way beyond the boxscores and what is seen on television.
He’s no thriller on the floor. He is glued to the bench and is averaging only 6.3 PPG in 16 minutes a game. But how he affects the team stretches as far as where his team goes — the dugout, the practice facility, the restaurant where they will have their team dinner, and much more.
Talk ‘N Text team manager Jimmy Alapag, a long-time teammate of Miller during the 2000s, understands what value Miller brings whether it is on the floor or not.
“He is a winner and that is the most important thing. Anytime you can bring in a two-time MVP whose won multiple championships in the PBA, he knows what the coaches are all about. I’m always lucky enough to have a chance to play with him,” he said.
“There has to be balance, and Miller knows that. In practice, we have work to do, and he is one of the first ones to arrive. Now that we are preparing for the semis, having someone with his capability will only help us.”
The Tropang Texters will be in for a tough grind against the Purefoods Star Hotshots, but people can expect Miller to be his usual goofy self. It’s how he wants to be part of the fun.
“Hindi pa rin [ako magiging seryoso lang sa semis]. Mas masaya kung mas relaxed ako. Pag hindi ako nangungulit, parang tense yung laro. Mas mahirap, hindi ako nakakagalaw.”
Whether it’s on or off the court, Miller is still making an impact.