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Friday, January 9, 2009
Darius Miles, Cap Space, E-mails, Oh My!

This Darius Miles situation is a mess.

Before we get to talking about threatening e-mails and all that, let's back up for a minute, and all agree on one thing: Darius Miles is not, and should not be, medically retired.

Portland's claim, supported by an independent doctor, that they should get salary cap relief for his career-ending injuries was a mistake. And now there's a 27-year-old who demonstrably would like to play basketball for a living. The Collective Bargaining Agreement's standard for assessing when a medical retirement was a mistake appears to have been a good one. Even before ten games are up, it's pretty clear.

Darius Miles
Darius Miles' knees may be hidden, but they appear to be working.
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

No, it's not obvious that he's one of the 300 or so best players in the world who get NBA roster spots. I'm not a fine enough judge of talent to declare that. But it is crystal clear that he's one of the thousand or so professional players who are in that mix. Europe, the D-League, the NBA ... he belongs in there somewhere. His body is still suited to running and jumping. He's a professional basketball player.

I just watched video of all of his regular season minutes. From the January 6 Grizzles vs. Timberwolves game, we can learn that anyone who tells you he's permanently broken is blatantly wrong.

Now, as to the Blazers' reported threat to teams about signing Miles for the wrong reasons. ... One key point is that the letter does not threaten to sue any team that signs Miles. Instead, it's a threat to sue any team that signs Miles for the purposes of hurting Portland.

Very glad I'm not the person who has to distinguish the one from the other. But there is a difference there. 

In essence, they're saying that whole "hey, why don't we just sign him and stick Portland with cap trouble" approach is not in keeping with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

On the other hand, I have heard from all kinds of lawyers. Including many who are Portland fans. They all agree that judges never like it when people are kept from work. And if a team does not hire Darius because of this e-mail, there is no shortage of lawyers who would happily take up the player's case in a suit against the Trail Blazers.

But I'll bet my eye teeth it'll never matter. Darius Miles will, I suggest, be signed by someone, and he will play two more games. That will legitimately end his medical retirement, and the Blazers will lose a big chunk of cap room to sign a free agent next summer. Life will march on, perhaps over the protests of the Portland front office.

In the meantime, a bundle of thoughts: