“You can start to look around thinking that guys don’t trust you because you might not be doing your job. I’m a team guy and I want to be able make the shots I’m supposed to make — not for any accolades, but because that’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s what I’m here for. I understand that I’m a piece to a bigger puzzle.”
It’s a mindset shared among many if not all of his teammates. Miles says it’s that like-mindedness that made him comfortable committing to the Raptors organization — he inked a three-year contract extension upon his arrival — and a not-so-secret formula to the team’s franchise-best performance this season.
He knew that the Raptors were committed to winning and had a roster made up of parts willing to combine to make an effective machine. But, like the rest of the NBA, he didn’t realize how good his teammates were.
When asked which Raptor surprised him the most upon first playing with his new team last summer he doesn’t hesitate: “Everybody in the second unit.”
Before coming to Toronto, he knew a little bit about the group he’d join to form the Raptors’ vaunted “Bench Mob.”
He knew of Fred VanVleet from his famed NCAA Tournament run with Wichita State two years ago. He knew less about Jakob Poeltl, and only knew of Delon Wright because of his connections back in Utah, who would phone Miles raving about the Utes’ point guard. He knew that Pascal Siakam could run and jump, but that was about it.
But it didn’t take long to realize that the bench group was special, and Miles says before the pre-season had wrapped he knew that they had the potential to take over games once they began to count.
His on-court role among the second unit was obvious – shoot the ball – but in those early days Miles’ impact came in other ways.
“I tried to pass along the confidence I had — not that they weren’t confident, but they weren’t really exuding it, but I wanted us all to carry that. I would tell them, ‘we’re the best bench in the league. Understand that.’ The biggest thing for us was believing it.
“When you see us right before tip-off and before we check into a game we say to each other, ‘best in the league.’ We carry that. We sit there watching the game, watching what our opponents are giving up, and then when it’s our turn we go in there and pick them apart.”