by Ryne Nelson

There’s absolutely no question about it: Darius Miles has always been one of the most polarizing players in the NBA. One night, you’d watch him limping around on one heal, and next he was dropping 47. One day, we thought Miles could be the future of the League, the next people labeled him a bust.

Love him or hate him, Darius Miles is on the comeback trail. So it goes without saying that this piece should have both some good and some bad.

I’ll give you good first: The Grizzlies plan to sign Miles to another 10-day contract this weekend, as reported by the Commercial Appeal. Now, this is very, very good, and I’ll you’ll see why it’s excellent news soon. But first, let’s touch on the bad, since I think it gives some necessary perspective…

Nine years since entering the NBA–during the height of the high school-to-pros boom–the East St. Louis product finds himself in the middle of an unprecedented saga to return to the League.

In August of 2004, the Blazers gave Miles his first non-rookie contract worth $48 million over six years. Miles was arguably the team’s best talent, recording irregular but absolutely nasty stat lines. This was the pinnacle of ‘Jail Blazer’ Era, however, a low-point in Blazer history in which players openly clashed with management and suspensions were dolled-out like ice cream at a Baskin Robins.

Miles famously had numerous public spats with Portland’s coaches, including a ballyhooed disagreement with then-interim head coach Kevin Pritchard.

The run-in occurred April 14, 2005 after a loss to Dallas. Miles pulled himself out of the game twice–once in the 2nd quarter and again in the 4th quarter–and went directly to the locker room. An assistant had to retrieve him the first time, and brought him back to the bench.

After the game, Miles met Pritchard in his office for a ‘pow wow.’ The press reported that shouting could be heard outside the office.

Later as GM, Pritchard replaced every player from the 2004-05 team with the exception of Travis Outlaw and Joel Przybilla. Many bad memories were made for during that period, and it’s quite clear why the team would have no qualms if Miles never played again…mostly because if Miles plays 10 games, his contract will ruin Portland’s hopes for signing an elite free agent this summer.

After what nearly everyone dubbed a “career-ending injury,” Miles has now played eight games this season, two shy of slapping $18 million back onto the Trail Blazers’ salary-cap.

Bench slinters, April 3, 2005So team president Larry Miller sent an email to the League’s owners and executives threatening to possibly sue any team that signed Miles.

But, thankfully, the bad news ends here.

Owners in Cleveland and Phoenix gave Portland disapproving responses. The Players’ Association filed a grievance against the Blazers alleging collusion. The NBA sent a memo to all 30 franchises which supported any team that wanted to sign Miles. In other words, the Blazers will not be permitted to prematurely end Miles’ career to help their wallets. Yes, this is very good news.

So here’s to the now-27 year old Darius Miles, a do-everything talent who admittedly had his faults, but who was forced to leave the League under the ugliest of circumstances. Inconsistent playing time, untimely injuries and devastatingly poor franchises tainted his young career.

You may not like Darius Miles because he’s about to drastically limit the Blazers’ financial flexibility. Four years and $30 million of his contract were almost all wasted, but Miles is ready and able to work for his paycheck again.

And that’s a very good thing.