CLEVELAND -- Thirty games into the season -- nearly 40 percent into the renewed commitment -- evidence in the Brad Miller Experiment builds from three double-doubles in five games in November to four 20-point outings in five contests in December to the one moment on Christmas Day.
The Kings center had a slice of apple pie. Apple cinnamon. He splurged and he savored, the memory recounted a few days later with a rise of excitement in his voice and the slight smile of a cherished instant.
"It was pretty outstanding," Miller said.
It was a reward.
Keeping his promise to maintain his offseason weight loss, Miller is averaging 13.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 appearances, with one game lost to a bruised leg muscle. He has moved to erase the past, his hefty 2006-07 of aching legs and burning lungs, and at the same time is holding off the future, playing 35.3 minutes a game at age 31 in a youthful showing that has contributed to protégé Spencer Hawes managing just nine.
Just as notable, even for someone never confused for the prototypical low-post center, Miller has dropped 15 or 20 pounds since last spring without turning willowy: the posting of 8.8 boards is better than either of the previous two seasons and far ahead of his career pace of 7.6. He dropped body fat, Miller points out, not muscle.
He will not say exactly how much body fat or how many pounds, only that he weighs somewhere in the 240s after being in the 260s during 2006-07. By any number, though, in a current Kings season dominated by physical breakdowns, with four-fifths of the potential starting lineup sidelined as the skeleton crew reaches Quicken Loans Arena tonight to face the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miller's condition has been a steady encouraging tone.
"I just don't get as tired," he said. "Kind of like the old days, when I was here and playing 39 minutes a game. You don't get tired because you're constantly in shape. That's just kind of how I feel now. I don't get too tired at all. I mean, minus Phoenix (1,100 feet elevation), at Denver (5,280) the first quarter. There's those few exceptions that get everybody. But for the most part, I feel good. My wind feels good."
He averaged 28.3 minutes a game last season, along with nine points and 6.4 rebounds, the lowest outputs since his first two NBA seasons as a Charlotte Hornet. While Miller ranked first among all centers with 3.6 assists, he also had just nine double-digit rebound games in 63 outing. There have already been 13 in the 29 games of 2007-08.
"I think I'm a little bit stronger than I was last year," he said. "Last year was a lot of excess body you're not used to. It was junk weight. Now it's a more productive weight."
The result, judged as the season approaches the midpoint, has been the ideal outcome, dropping the weight to gain mobility without sacrificing muscled bulk. He has at least nine rebounds in eight of the past 11 games, including 16 Wednesday at New York in the opener of the three-game trip. He has averaged 10.2 the past nine games, an especially critical contribution for a team among the worst in the league on the boards.
"He moves better out there," said Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a long-time counterpart. "Brad, he's a veteran player, so you always know what you're going to get with him. He's probably the best-passing center in the NBA right now. It's always hard because he's a little bit unconventional. He's playing high and more on the perimeter, so it makes it hard for bigger guys to guard him.
"But he's strong enough. He'll be fine."
He already has been, to obvious rewards.