Miles triggers $18M salary hit, cap tax

Updated: January 17, 2009, 7:00 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

It came and went without fanfare -- and presumably fear of retribution.

Just more than a week had passed since the Portland Trail Blazers threatened their 29 fellow NBA teams with a lawsuit if someone signed Darius Miles.

Miles had already played in two regular-season games for the Grizzlies under a 10-day contract and six preseason games. Two more games from the small forward this season would cause a breach to the Blazers' salary cap, costing them $18 million in salary plus luxury taxes.

But Friday night, there he was, making his second appearance under his latest 10-day contract and fourth of the season for the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 10 points with seven rebounds in 14 minutes of a 101-91 loss to the visiting Utah Jazz.

The loss dropped the Grizzlies to 11-28 as they sunk farther in the cellar of the Southwest Division.

Miles' appearance cost the Blazers much more, however.

It placed the remaining $18 million of his salary back on Portland's payroll and counts against the Blazers' salary cap, forcing them to pay luxury tax.

The Blazers had sent out an e-mail earlier this month warning of possible legal action against any team signing the free-agent Miles.

"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," team president Larry Miller's e-mail read.

"Our purpose here was not in any way to keep Darius from being able to play," Miller said. "If he can come back and help a team to win and play at a level on the court that helps the team, we have no problem with that at all."

Miles set up the milepost by scoring 13 points in 14 minutes of a 102-87 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Memphis on Tuesday after signing the 10-day deal Saturday.

"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," said Miller in the e-mail.

Miller's e-mail prompted the threat of a grievance from the players' union, and Miles' signing by the Grizzlies quickly followed.

Miles, who was the third overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2000 draft, signed a six-year, $48 million deal with Portland in 2004. The Blazers waived Miles at the end of the 2007-08 season after an independent doctor determined he hadn't recovered from microfracture surgery on his right knee in November 2006.

He played in six preseason games for the Celtics this season before Boston released him on Oct. 20. It had been believed that under the collective bargaining agreement, Miles had to play in 10 regular-season or postseason games in a season for the $18 million to count against the Blazers. But the NBA confirmed that the six preseason games Miles played for the Celtics also counted.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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