Miles clears waivers, up for grabs

Updated: January 9, 2009, 3:29 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Darius Miles cleared waivers and became a free agent. That much was clear Friday.

Yet everything surrounding the Miles affair -- the possibility of him returning to the NBA this season, and the negative salary-cap ramifications he would cause for the Portland Trail Blazers -- took a complicated and controversial turn Friday after the club sent a memo to the 29 other NBA teams threatening litigation against anyone who signs Miles or claims his contract off waivers if it is solely for the purpose of burdening the Blazers' cap.

TrueHoop: The Miles mess

Before Henry Abbott gets to cap space and e-mail missives, he makes the point that Darius Miles is not, and should not be, medically retired. Blog

The matter has been added to this afternoon's agenda at a previously scheduled meeting between NBA and players' union attorneys, ESPN.com has learned.

In a memo sent to its 30 teams Friday that announced Miles had cleared waivers, the league office acknowledged it received the e-mail Portland distributed.

The NBA in its statement also seemed to indicate that it would support any club wishing to sign the veteran forward.

Numerous league executives contacted by ESPN.com suggested Friday that a line in the memo confirming that "teams are free to sign Darius Miles to a Uniform Player Contract" and that "any such contract would be approved by the NBA" are a first in a league-issued waiver notice.

If Miles plays two more games, then his Blazers contract, worth $18 million total for this season and next, would count against Portland's salary cap and force the team to pay the NBA's luxury tax next summer. The contract had been removed from salary-cap and tax considerations when the Blazers deemed Miles medically unable to play and released him.
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"Darius Miles is focused on one thing -- that's returning to play basketball. That's it. He's not focusing on any of those other issues," said agent Jeff Wechsler, who was on the phone Friday morning with union attorneys trying to devise a strategy to confront what many around the league were describing as an unprecedented situation.

Although the Blazers have exposed themselves to censure from the league office for the tone of their note to fellow teams regarding Miles -- as well as a hostile reaction from the players' union -- one team did express some sympathy for their position Friday.

"It's a lot of money," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN.com on Friday, referring to millions in future salary-cap space that the Blazers could lose if Miles' contract is restored to Portland's payroll.

"For that much, I would be sending e-mails, too."

The Blazers' e-mail, signed by team president Larry Miller, states that if any team were to sign the free-agent forward "for the purpose of adversely impacting the Portland Trail Blazers' Salary Cap and tax positions ... the Portland Trail Blazers will take all necessary steps to safeguard its rights, including, without limitation, litigation."

The full text of the e-mail, according to reports by SI.com and Yahoo! Sports, reads:

"'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.'"

Teams had believed the collective bargaining agreement said Miles must play 10 regular-season or postseason games in a season for the $18 million to count against the Blazers. But six preseason games Miles played for the Boston Celtics counted toward the 10.

Before the Memphis Grizzlies waived him on Tuesday night to avoid guaranteeing his contract for the rest of the season, Miles served a 10-game drug-related suspension and then played two regular-season games, pushing his total games played to eight.

Had they not waived him, Miles' contract with Memphis would have become guaranteed for the remainder of the season. It was not clear whether the Grizzlies had planned to re-sign Miles to a 10-day contract after he cleared waivers.

Senior writer Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com.

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