Blazers off base with Miles threat
The Blazers don't want other NBA teams to sign one of their former players
If Darius Miles plays two more games, his old contract is back on the books
Teams would be acting irresponsibly if they didn't try to hurt Portland financially
Not content with having one more player on the court than the Celtics in a recent laughable moment at the Rose Garden, the Trail Blazers now want to dictate who can and cannot be on the floor for all 29 of their rivals.
That, at least, is the upshot of an e-mail that the Blazers reportedly sent to NBA executives late Thursday, threatening legal action against any team that signs former Portland forward Darius Miles. Specifically, as the e-mail was quoted by SI.com's Ian Thomsen, Portland wants to put a chill on any team that pursues the long-injured Miles for the "purpose of adversely impacting'' its future salary-cap space and luxury-tax implications.
At issue is Miles' availability once again on the free-agent market and the Blazers' precarious position regarding what's left of the player's guaranteed contract. That deal, a $48 million mistake-even-then given by the Blazers to Miles in 2004, had $18 million remaining for this season and next. At the moment, that figure doesn't count against Portland's cap space for next summer and 2010 because Miles was cleared from the team's books under NBA provisions for "career-ending injuries." In April, an independent medical examiner approved by both the league and the NBA Players' Association determined that Miles' ailing right knee was damaged enough to qualify. He had missed all of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, last playing for Portland in April 2006.
The doctor's conclusion last spring, general manger Kevin Pritchard said, allowed "Darius and the Trail Blazers to move forward and achieve closure to this matter.'' Uh, not exactly. Pritchard was eager for Miles to move on to his post-basketball life so that his team, already one of the NBA's hottest properties, could round up even more talent through summer signings or sign-and-trade maneuvers. Shedding Miles' cap number would keep Portland under the luxury tax and shift the biggest portion of his future paychecks to insurance, two more financial incentives.
Those plans could be scuttled now if Miles signs and plays two games with any other NBA team. He already has second, third and fourth medical opinions on his side, all apparently contradicting the verdict on which Portland waived him, and Miles now needs only a fifth. Boston signed and used Miles in six preseason games (opinion No. 2). The Clippers worked him out (opinion No. 3) but passed with claims that he wasn't in shape and would take too long to contribute. Most recently, Memphis brought Miles in, waited while he served a 10-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy, then used him in two games (opinion No. 4) for a total of nine minutes before cutting him Wednesday, lest his veteran's minimum contract be guaranteed for the balance of this season.
Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that, contrary to popular NBA belief, Miles needed to make only two more appearances to put asunder Portland's best-laid plan. That's because the 10-game standard in the league's collective bargaining agreement that would put the lie to any notion of "career-ending injury'' does, in fact, count preseason games. And that's why Blazers president Larry Miller allegedly authored the e-mail, trying to scare rivals away from the third pick from the 2000 draft, a 6-foot-9 bundle of skills and immaturity.
The heavy-lifting of getting Miles back up to NBA speed already has been done: The Celtics kept him around long enough to log a half-dozen appearances, and the Grizzlies rode out his suspension and the two games in which Miles contributed a combined two rebounds and two blocked shots. Now all someone would have to do to thwart Portland's cap relief and offseason ambitions is sign Miles and use him twice. Based on the mandated $1.14 million salary for eight-year veterans, that would cost a team about $28,000. Not a bad investment when you consider that shoving the Blazers across the league's tax threshold would bring back an estimated $250,000 in revenue sharing.
Thus, one of the sabers rattled in the e-mail -- that a team would be violating its "fiduciary duty'' by signing Miles solely for the purpose of screwing with the Blazers -- has no edge to it. Beyond that, teams competing with Portland for supremacy in the Northwest Division, in the Western Conference and in the NBA overall wouldn't be acting responsibly if they didn't sign Miles and spoil its master plan.
Last we checked, every team's goal is to be better than every other team, right? The way you do that is by outplaying and outmaneuvering the competition. On and off the court. Twenty-four seven. That Portland is stomping its feet about a situation that it created with Miles in the first place feels a little like Microsoft -- Blazers owner Paul Allen's old haunt -- trying to stifle upstart competitors. Next thing we know, Apple will be poking fun in commercials at the new nerdy Blazers. Sounds like Miles already is available as a pitchman.
"I wish I could do this without me having to put money on [Portland's] salary cap,'' Miles told reporters last month when he joined the Grizzlies. "The only reason they say something about me is because of their business decision. They decided they didn't want me to play for that team anymore. It's kind of like the [Stephon Marbury] situation and everybody labeled me like I was this bad dude.''
Assuming the Blazers are serious, and would direct the full force of their wrath and their lawyers on whichever team signs and uses Miles next, they would be letting Boston and Memphis off the hook. The Celtics deserve at least 60 percent of the blame and the Grizzlies 20 percent for Miles' being on his way to 10 appearances, right? Speaking of off-the-hook, teams ought to be ringing Miles agent Jeff Wechsler's phone that way, in volume, eager to throw down with a rival for whom so much lately has gone so right.
If Miles' NBA days are numbered due to a legitimate career-ending injury, so be it. But they ought not to run out because of a former employer's career-ending e-mail.