CATE Miller admits she was puzzled why his husband was sitting on the bench instead of leading the charge like he used to late in Globalport's match against Brgy. Ginebra on Friday night.
“Nanibago? Yeah, kasi compared sa last conference iba ngayon,” said Willie Miller's lovely wife as she watched the endgame from ringside with kids Alex, Dre, and Alexa.
But she admitted she wasn't surprised: "Hindi na rin ako nagtataka kasi andami nang nilaruan na team ni Willie. Sanay na ako. Depende kasi 'yan sa gusto ng coach, hindi naman kami ang nagde-decide sa playing time."
She is not alone.
A lot of eyebrows are being raised as Miller, a two-time PBA MVP and Globalport's go-to guy in the Philippine Cup, is seeing less and less action and 'disappearing' from the lineup during crunchtime.
The flamboyant scorer still gets considerable minutes under new Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi, his former coach at Red Bull, but is consistently made to yield the spotlight to new recruit Sol Mercado, Gary David, and even rookie AJ Mandani in the endgame.
Miller himself looked just as perplexed as everybody else about the dip in his playing time but insisted he is being patient and doing his best to adjust to the new situation.
“Malaking pagbabago, baligtad ngayon (yung role ko). Pero abang-abang lang ako," he said. "Basta panalo, walang problema. So hopefully parating panalo."
Asked if he is puzzled by his new role, the ever-smiling Miller turned serious: “Siyempre nagtataka kasi baligtad ngayon eh."
Globalport team owner Mikee Romero, however, said the dwindling playing time of Miller should serve as a challenge for the Olongapo City-born slasher.
“His minutes are going down, so kailangan talaga magpakita siya. It should be a challenge for him … He should really step up," said the dashing team owner.
“His time will come dito sa team. Sa ngayon nao-overshadow siya nung ibang players," added Romero. “Pero beterano yan, darating at darating ang laro nyan.”
The Batang Pier have been doing well in the Commissioner's Cup, winning two of their first three games which was more than enough to surpass their win total in the entire Philippine Cup.
Prior to the start of the mid-season conference, Spin.ph was a witness when Romero approached Miller and challenged the 35-year-old guard to help the team atone for the Philippine Cup letdown.
“Pare, kalimutan na natin yung naging campaign natin the last time. Gusto ko bumawi ka ngayon ha. Pukpok tayo," Romero urged his veteran guard.
Before tongues start wagging, Romero was also quick to dispel speculations that Miller is on the way out.
"No," he told Spin.ph, "Miller is staying with the team."
Like her husband, Cate is also being patient. She has known Miller since they were in Grade Three. She has also seen Miller rise from far worse situations in the past, and she has no doubt that he can rise from this one.
“Si Willie naman, even before, is not after na maka-score siya. He can help in distributing the ball o sa depensa. Okay lang sa kanya yun," said Mrs. Miller, who on most days tends to the family-owned bakeshop in Taguig.
“Para kay Willie, basta maganda yung laro ng teammates niya at panalo sila, okay lang sa kanya yun.”