Monday Morning Point Guard
The week that was in the NBA, was, well, odd. The Boston Celtics forgot how to win, the Minnesota Timberwolves forgot how to lose, and the Portland Trail Blazers went from being a bandwagon-collecting team on the rise to being a big meanie trying to hold down a former employee.
For the first time since he emerged on that Sports Illustrated cover with Kevin Garnett, Darius Miles was thrust into the center of the NBA universe -- but not for anything he did on a basketball court. Miles has been trying to comeback to the NBA after missing the past two seasons because of microfracture surgery. But the Trail Blazers have been behind the scenes, every step of the way, imploring teams to stay away from him -- for the primary reason of keeping his $18 million salary off of their books.
Miles signed a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, four days after they released him and two days after Portland sent an unprecedented e-mail to the other 29 teams threatening litigation against any team that signed Miles with the sole purpose of damaging the Trail Blazers' salary cap situation. If Miles plays in two more games and fulfills a league-mandated 10-game requirement, his salary would go on Portland's payroll for the next two years and force the Trail Blazers to pay a luxury tax penalty of $7.9 million. Miles's return would also swallow a huge portion of the cap room Portland planned to use the next two summers on potential free agents.
Portland President Larry Miller said the e-mail memo was sent to deter teams from intentionally trying to hurt the Trail Blazers, not seriously employ Miles for basketball reasons. The threat angered several league owners and executives, including Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, who fired back with disapproving e-mail of his own. The NBA Players Association also got involved.
Miles's career has been one of unfulfilled promise ever since the Los Angeles Clippers selected him No. 3 overall out of high school in 2000. He was billed as the next K.G., but his career has been mired by an inability to turn his potential in productivity, as he bounced from the Clippers to Cleveland to Portland. He also sullied his reputation when he reportedly cursed then-Blazers Coach Maurice Cheeks during an argument in 2005 -- and that was after Blazers owner Paul Allen somehow rewarded him with a $48-million contract the summer before.
Portland thought it had been relieved from the contract mistake when an independent doctor declared his injury career-ending. But when Miles started his comeback, word miraculously leaked that he would have to serve a 10-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He spent the summer and training camp with Boston, playing six preseason games with the Celtics before getting cut. He played just nine minutes in two games with Memphis and will likely have a minimal impact in his second stint with the Grizzlies. But if he gets on the floor for two more games, the Blazers will be hurting for two more summers.
The Trail Blazers fumbled by making this issue greater than it needed to be. Threatening the other 29 teams with legal action is never a good way to do business. And, unfortunately, it brings a bad era of Blazers history back to life.
The weekly awards are coming soon. . .
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