Friday, January 9th, 2009 at 4:55 pm  |  45 responses

Links: Don’t Tread On The NBA

The Trailblazers would like your lunch money.

by Lang Whitaker

If there’s one thing we can be sure of regarding the Portland Trailblazers, it’s that their front office doesn’t want to play by the rules.

Yesterday, the Blazers’ front office sent out an email to every other front office in the NBA. By now the email is all over the internets:

Team Presidents and General Managers,

The Portland Trail Blazers are aware that certain teams may be contemplating signing Darius Miles to a contract for the purpose of adversely impacting the Portland Trail Blazers Salary Cap and tax positions. Such conduct from a team would violate its fiduciary duty as an NBA joint venturer. In addition, persons or entities involved in such conduct may be individually liable to the Portland Trail Blazers for tortuously interfering with the Portland Trail Blazers’ contract rights and perspective economic opportunities.

Please be aware that if a team engages in such conduct, the Portland Trail Blazers will take all necessary steps to safeguard its rights, including, without limitation, litigation.

(Wait, isn’t it “prospective” economic opportunities, not “perspective”? Either way.)

darius-milesHey, you know what other sort of conduct violates a team’s fiduciary duty as a joint NBA venturer? Trying to bully the other 29 teams in the League because you signed a guy to a bad contract.

Back in 2004, it turns out, the Blazers tried really hard to get Darius Miles. After the Blazers traded Jeff McInnis and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje-Boumtje-Boumtje-Boumtje to Cleveland in order to get Miles, then-GM John Nash said they’d been negotiating a deal to get Miles for nearly a year. When his contract ran out, Portland signed him to a new deal worth $48 million over six years, even though he was a restricted free agent who hadn’t received any other offers.

D-Miles played well in spurts, putting up 47 points in a game once but also getting in an argument with coach Mo Cheeks and generally not being the best-behaved teammate in Portland. When the Blazers waived Miles in April of 2008, the organization openly admitted that getting rid of Miles provided relief to a franchise trying to turn the page on a history that had recently included too many malcontents and troublemakers. The Blazers evidently felt Miles belonged in that category:

“There is closure to the organization regarding Darius,” Pritchard said. “We’re putting this behind us, and putting closure on a tough situation.”

Miles suffered a knee injury in 2006, and by the end of 2006 he’d undergone the dreaded microfracture knee surgery. When he hadn’t returned by April of 2008, the Blazers had Miles checked out by a doctor who’d been OK’d by the L and the Player’s Association, and he said Miles’ knee injury qualified as “career-threatening.”

The Blazers waived Miles with the sole purpose of getting rid of him. They had to pay him the remainder of his contract, sure, but Paul Allen spends money like Michael Jackson used to. The good news was that Miles was gone. As The Oregonian story I linked to above mentions, “His release gives the Blazers a roster without any player who has been suspended or disciplined by the team or the NBA, the first time that has been the case in at least 15 years.”

And as an added bonus, that crazy contract the Blazers had blessed Miles with would be wiped from their books. Suddenly, not only did the Blazers have one of the best young teams in the NBA, they also had money under the salary cap to spend.

Then something really strange happened: Darius Miles started playing basketball again. By all accounts it was a long, tough road, one that Darius Miles had no financial reason to go down. He tried to come back, as he said, because he didn’t want to have “no regrets.” So he got healthy, rehabbed his knee and tried to return. That’s a great story, right? Guy suffers a knee injury that a doctor says is career-ending, yet through hard work and perseverance he’s able to do the impossible and make it back to the NBA. Good for him.

Not so fast. Portland, see, they thought they were done with Darius. But now that he’s two games away from having played the 10 games the NBA asked him to play to prove his career wasn’t over, Portland decided to be the bully in the room. “If you sign him to mess with us, you’ll regret it!” they threatened.

They signed the deal with Darius, and now that he’s able to play again, they don’t want him to have the opportunity. I know, their email said they didn’t want anyone inking Miles “for the purpose of adversely impacting the Portland Trail Blazers Salary Cap and tax positions.” So they could say they wouldn’t be mad if you signed Miles to play ball, only if you signed him to screw with them. Well, anyone who signs Miles is going to screw with them. That’s just the way it is. Darius Miles playing basketball in the NBA this season is inextricably tied to the Blazers cap money. And you know why? Because they signed Darius to the contract to begin with.

It’s kinda funny: People used to dislike the Blazers because they had a bunch of players who got in trouble all the time. Now people dislike the Blazers not because of their actual players, but because of the people in the front office who went out and got the nice players.

Go figure.

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  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Kobe sucks!

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    ^^Just trying to mess with Myles and B Long
    But hypothetically, how could Portland’s lawyers prove the intentions behind signing Miles were not basketball related? They could argue that he was an unproductive or unsuccessful player but that doesn’t have any bearing on proving that a team signed Miles with the sole purpose of screwing them over. It could be seen as an added benefit (esp for teams in the West) but what could prove that screwing the Blazers was a team’s sole motivation? Especially now that EVERYONE is painfully aware of this situation.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    This is one of the first times where I’ve thought “oh yeah, Paul Allen is one of the Microsoft guys.” The Blazers are coming off as exceedingly unlikeable over a matter of what, a couple million dollars a year? Again, I wish nothing but failure on them for the forseeable future.

  • Pro

    Man, that was a bad PR move by the Blazers.

  • Pro

    Cuban really needs to get this done.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Russ: It’s funny, I just thought about that Paul Allen connection, too, while writing that post.

  • awesomepossum

    It takes very good imagination to come up with this, which team would really wanna hurt the Blazers financially?

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    the Lakers/Celtics/G-State(a team with a front office that does whatever the hell it wants)/Orlando/Houston/New York/Phoenix or one of the other franchises with a bigger name than the Trail Blazers who are not intimidated by the Blazers should sign Miles.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    Gosh, I hope they don’t go broke and have to be sold to some rapacious businessmen from Kansas City or Little Rock or someplace!

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    If the Baltimore Bullets could stop being the Washington Wizards long enough to grow some balls to do something cool like sign Darius Miles i would appreciate it.

  • Jackie Moon

    Good thing David Stern bit back with the NBA’s own release that basically says, “If you want Darius Miles, go ahead and get him and play him, we got your back.”

  • RayRayJr

    Wow great research on this episode of “The Links”. If you have never heard of Darius Miles well now you know. Good job Lang
    Anyways what a jerk move by the Blazers. I can see why a team would screw the Blazers over bc that’s another team out of the 2010 free agent extravaganza/race/buffet.
    The Blazers agreed to the contract so thats what they get. So low of them to send out that threat. I hope Darius plays those 2 games now

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    If they didn’t want him to ever play again they should have just had him killed. Like Paul Allen doesn’t know people.

  • http://www.kicksonfire.com Anton

    The front office is acting as though they’re the favorites to win the championship. In all likelihood, the Blazers won’t be a huge impact in the playoffs, so the only way teams would “screw” them is financially.
    Take it to ‘em, Darius.

  • http://www.sprint.com/sero dma

    paul allen would probably kill him after he plays the 1st game. again, i wonder what the rule is for the blazers to sign him and let him rot at home? what if some european team signs him?

  • RayRayJr

    Wouldn’t be surprised if they “Nancy Kerriganed” him. Watch ur back Darius!…I mean knee

  • http://www.kicksonfire.com Anton

    Bet the Celtics are kicking themselves after waiving him, too. Give him some minutes and he’ll be better than Big Baby, Scalabrine, and that O’Bryant combined.
    Solid play is from the bench is better than what they’re getting now.

  • Kevin Pritchard

    My Swag is phenomenal

  • Myung

    This is sort of like Spygate happening to the Pats last season, in terms of possibly de-railing a feel-good year. The team every franchise wanted to be this past summer was Portland. While they still have a ton of young talent, this certainly makes for some different press than they’ve been getting for the past several months.

  • Keith

    This is amusing but only because it’s so ridiculous.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    @ciolkstar: I’m no lawyer, but that’s a very very good point. I’ve read somewhere else that a case like this has no precedent, so that complicates the issue. But you hit the nail, I think; the key issue is “HOW can the Blazers prove that another team picked up D-Miles, not for the intent of picking up just another player and asset to their own team, but to screw the Blazers over?” I don’t think it’s possible to prove it.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Moreover, as interesting as all this is, the Blazers organization is really making themselves look bad to the average fan. Would you like to support a team who, in order to save a coupla million in cap room, would A.) spread false rumours to try and ruin the career of someone who’s already been down and out for years, and B.) stupidly threaten the other teams with litigation?

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Let’s say Portland somehow comes up top in all this – judging by how David Stern handled the Seattle fiasco, an improbable but possible result. The Blazers derail D-Miles’ future in the NBA and he goes to play basketball in Manila or Guangdong or something, and with the coupla million dollars sign a key free agent to add to their already very deep team. They then go on to somehow win a championship in 2012 or so.

    Would that championship be worth winning? Worth celebrating over? Can the Blazers proudly, with a clear collective conscience, proclaim themselves champions when they effectively won with the tainted aid of professional sports’ equivalent of blood money?

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    *hit the nail on head, I mean. Long week.

  • Tekno

    Wouldn’t this only serve to antagonise and agitate an opposing team so much that they will now just sign Miles for ten days just for the heck of it? I know I would. Stupid, stupid move by the Blazers…just when they had accrued so much good-will towards them for building a nice, young and talented team. I imagine that they were a lot of people’s choice as their second favourite team…maybe not so anymore.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    Cubes, DO IT!

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    The NBA players’ association plans to file a grievance against the Portland Trail Blazers, who have threatened litigation against any NBA club considering signing Darius Miles.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    Now this is just too good:
    Gilbert wrote: “I fully understand the frustration you and your team’s ownership must be feeling in regards to this situation, but a preemptive threat of ‘litigation’ directed at all of your partners through a group e-mail does not sit well with me and seems to be incongruent with the spirit of keeping a ‘fiduciary duty’ and good ‘partner-like duty’ to your ‘NBA joint venturers.’”
    League sources told ESPN.com that the Phoenix Suns’ Robert Sarver is the only other owner so far who has continued the leaguewide e-mail discussion. Following up Gilbert’s note with a brief question directed at the Blazers, Sarver wrote, “Are you saying we’re not allowed to sign him?”

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    And what does it matter if a team signs D-Miles to sit at the end of the bench for the rest of the year? Teams sign 11th – 12th men for 10 days all the time and they never get any burn. Wasn’t Fred Jones basically waived and signed back? Hassan Adams just got traded and waived. Whether Miles get burn or not is irrelevant.

  • http://www.bebotbebot.com 007

    blazers management/owners should know for good karma to just let miles go and have his pay. Just like new york must do for marbury. I mean players come and go but teams(cough:seattle) stay in the league for a long time not just for the money. that’s just pennies for the owners.

  • http://Ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    You know Cubes and Paul Allen probably f@cking hate other already. This could get good…

  • http://www.yamahyouth.com Germs

    “A source told TNT’s David Aldridge late Friday evening that the Memphis Grizzlies plan to sign free agent forward Darius Miles to a 10-day contract on Saturday.”

  • http://www.yamahyouth.com Germs

    From Daily Dose / NBA.com
    “A source told TNT’s David Aldridge late Friday evening that the Memphis Grizzlies plan to sign free agent forward Darius Miles to a 10-day contract on Saturday.”

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    The only reason Portland got him off their payscale was that his injury was deemed ‘career ending’. Guess what? His career didn’t end!

  • http://hoops4life.com overtime

    Like a poor mans Amare

  • tinchek

    i always thought that it’s really disrespectful when teams start treating their former players like portland, indiana and ny do

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    I like that the first comment has nothing to do with the actual piece…
    Thanks Lang, as a bit of a young’n I didn’t really know that all that stuff had happened in that way. Oh, I knew about the waiving post microfacture surgery and that it was ‘mildly’ controversial, but didn’t think that it would be so *big* and that it could affect a whole franchise like that…anyways, new stuff on hibachi.

  • MeloMan13

    woww. knock on wood Russ

  • http://www.slamonline.com only_built_for_asian_link

    Memphiz Grizzlies already signed him right?

  • ka

    Portland f.o. just out-douched n.y.’s.

  • Phil B

    ok, i’m back. still defending the blazers. (sidenote: f u blazers for putting me in this position). (second sidenote, someone in the other thread said if a doctor gives you a diagnosis you don’t like get a second, and i agree. from personal experience, if you don’t get a good diagnosis, get a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc… don’t ever quit.) unfortunately for the blazers they did get a second independent opinion and they agreed. oh well, right? i just don’t get why the money goes back on the cap. why should you have to pay a player to play for someone else? not cool. but what do i know. the blazers just said don’t sign him just to screw us. that’s fair. is that probably half the reason the dude has contracts? yes. can it be proved? no. will their lawsuits go far? probably not. but what do i know. i’m sick of this already. definitely not a good pr move. the feel good team is now hated by everyone. whatever. i’m not rooting for the management, i’m rooting for the players. that hasn’t changed. i don’t think i can talk about this lameness anymore. the rich just keep getting richer, one way or another.

  • http://slamonline.com Tzvi T

    great post, good comments. I wish D. Miles AND the Blazers players all the best. As for the GMs, that’s a whole other story.

  • http://hypebeast.com Spaceship Jay

    I just signed Darius Miles to a 10-day contract.

  • BeloHorizante

    Well there is a whle lot of ignorance and over reaction here. Wouldn’t you be a little annoyed if a team is singning a player to 10 day contracts, that if he plays two more games will put you over the cap, adding 9 million and hampering any important re-signings. Portland are not on of the teams that are going to gamble in 2009 and 2010 but they have important players to re sign.

    Darius Miles career was supposed to be ended, his knee is rubbing bone on bone right now and was told he had to stop. Of course Portland waived him, so would you. And his contract was taking off the cap, rightfully so. Now the League has made no mention of keeping it off if he plays more games. Paul Allen should not be happy with having to pay millions to other NBA teams, and Kevin should not be happy having to deal with cap-space problems.

  • http://esignalsforex.com Forex Account for

    That’s an interesting story.