[Editorial Note: Ben had the chance to sit down with Mike Barrett on Thursday afternoon to conduct an interview. As Ben has noted below, this interview occurred before Darius Miles had signed with the Boston Celtics. Because this excerpt was posted after that event and there may have been ambiguity on that score, Ben has edited his introduction to include the timeline prominently. I have also edited the title and included this information. It is not the normal policy of this site to edit content after it has been posted, but in some cases time and context become important. It's also important to be fair to all involved. These changes will hopefully clarify the nature of the interview and the context of the responses. An updated comment from Mike Barrett follows the original piece.
Original Post, Friday, August 22
Huge story this morning with the Darius signing.
Coincidentally, I sat down yesterday with Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett for an extended interview at the Trail Blazers Practice Facility. We talked about a number of topics over the course of 90+ minutes: growing up as a Blazers fan, his roles as a television broadcaster, radio personality, and blogger, and the joy of imagining winning a title.
One of the topics we discussed at length happened to be Darius Miles. Please note that this conversation occurred Thursday, one day prior to Darius signing with the Celtics today.
I am excerpting this section of the interview tonight because of the magnitude of the news of Darius's signing. Please look for the rest of this interview shortly.
We pick up the interview with me asking Mr. Barrett about Dwight Jaynes's now-famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) story about potential HIPAA violations on the part of the Blazers organization for speaking on Darius Miles's health. Mr. Barrett's responses are in block quote.
Blazersedge.com: Was that a story?
Blazersedge.com: If it wasn't a story, how did it get to where it was?
I don't know. I don't. I know Dwight wrote it, then [John] Canzano came back and fired back and said it wasn't a story. I don't know enough about that to make a decent comment on that. I just don't. I don't know the laws exactly. You need to talk to Tom Penn, the guy you just met. Tom, he's our legal eagle.
Tom knows everything, if you've got a question on the salary cap, you've got a question on a player, you got a question on how to... you know... like with some of the players out here, like Desmond Mason or Spencer Hawes was here the other day, Luke Jackson just walked by, these kinds of guys, he will know legally how we can treat them if they get hurt. Can you wrap their ankles? On those kinds of laws, we refer to those guys. I'm not smart enough or well-versed enough on that stuff to know.
Blazersedge.com: Putting the legal stuff aside, I think one of Dwight's other points was: was Darius being treated fairly during that whole process? Was he being treated like other players were? Did you have a read on that?
I think the only thing I would say about all this is, you know, [Boston] came out and said, "Oh, he, he wasn't hurt as badly as we were led to believe." Kind of intimating that Portland was... you know...
His injury was ruled a career-ending injury by an independent doctor who was working underneath and in cooperation with the Players Union and the League. They had advisors. This was not a guy who, who was one of our team doctors who said, "this will really help us under the cap if we say..." that's not how this came about. This doctor did not come to this conclusion off the cuff. He didn't just look at him. He went through everything and then came up with this and said this.
To imply that to list him as career ending and to file the paperwork with the league that the team had to do to do this, to imply that there was something that wasn't above board and that's ridiculous. And if you know anything about this, you know that. It's just silly.
There was nothing else floated or planted about Darius that I felt was unfair. For somebody to come out after that, to suggest, after all we've been through, you know, in signing him to the big contract, keeping him around, trying to help him rehab, to then think that... I don't know... that it implied that he was somehow really treated unfairly when given the designation of career ending injury, that's just silly.
Blazersedge.com: Let's say hypothetically that Darius signs a contract with someone. How do you react? Are you happy for him? I mean, obviously there are financial implications for the team.
No, I mean, you know, I'm not going to root against the guy. I knew Darius a little bit. Toward me, and my family, and my wife knew his wife, he's a nice guy. You know.
Does he do the right thing always? Obviously not. Is he a guy who I am glad that is gone from this group of players? Probably. Just because of his off-the-court habits. His recreational habits of what he likes to do. I would prefer our young guys weren't around somebody like that.
For the person, no. If he does, good for him.
Blazersedge.com: Among a small group of people, there is a perception that the money trumps everything in the Darius situation. That there may be some feeling somewhere in the organization of, "We really hope he doesn't sign anywhere else. Because that would hurt us." Do you think that, to a man, the management staff here would begrudge him a contract or do you think they pretty much feel the same way you do?
I do not know. I cannot speak for them. They did what they felt they had to do in the situation, where you're talking about a lot of money for a player who was designated by an independent doctor as having a career ending injury. Above and beyond that, you know, they did what they had to do from a business standpoint in getting that ruling and filing that paperwork. And the doctor agreed.
Blazersedge.com: Understood. Given all of this, why are we even talking about Darius? ... Is this just a natural play-out of a four year long drama with that player? Why do you think people stuck with that story? That there wasn't anything else to talk about? Or do you think he had sort of a role here? Did he represent something bigger than himself?
He represented what a lot of fans were getting frustrated about. A little bit of the past. He was maybe the last link to that past, for fans.
I don't think people hated him. I think they were frustrated, like you would be frustrated with anybody who you see just a world of potential in his game. He would go and score 47 in Denver and just be unstoppable, and then just disappear. It frustrates people. Just like you get upset with anybody you care about. If you're not living up to your potential which is the ultimate in disrespect for yourself and the game.
I think like a lot of fans, and Portland has been like this, they wanted to like him And they did! It's not like they don't like him now. I think it's maybe more frustrating than anything.
And then when you get other options, like we have now in players, when you get to the point where it's not going to cost you to move on and cheer for the guys you have, I think your loyalties will shift, if that makes any sense. So maybe that's why people were hard on him.
And that's ok and that happens in every market and Portland is unique because it's all Blazers. In other markets it probably wouldn't have been as big a story. It was because he got his big contract here. He played very well to get it. People even at the time were a little bit against him getting that big contract.
But the fact that he did some things. Maurice Cheeks was beloved here even though he was fired, he's still respected by people. The fact that he had the run-in with Cheeks that made a lot of people upset at him for that. So I think maybe... then there's the stories of the nightlife that people didn't like, and then the idea that he would influence poorly these young, innocent guys that everyone's come to love.
As I mentioned in the sidebar thread this morning, I spoke briefly with Darius's agent, Mr. Wechsler, this morning. I think it's fair to say that he was extremely happy with the signing, despite the uncertainty that stills remains. Viewing this situation from his eyes, I am sure that he is realistic about what this signing means and what it doesn't mean. It doesn't necessarily mean Darius will see floor time this year. But it does mean that an important step toward returning to the floor has been taken.
Surely, it is a step that most did not anticipate.
As I've said before, I wish Mr. Miles the best and I am both pleased and intrigued by this recent development. Pleased for the continuation of his career and intrigued by the unchartered territory that he might enter.
I requested an interview with Mr. Miles and a statement from Mr. Wechsler this morning. It is my great hope that they will now consider speaking out on this matter. As you may remember, they previously (mostly) refused to speak on the record a few weeks back.
Update, Saturday, August 23: After publishing this story Friday night, Mr. Barrett contacted Blazersedge with the following statement:
"I want to make sure people know I never had issues with Darius. We were all pulling for him to rehab and get back to being an NBA player. He had a great physical therapist and as I saw him, he worked his tail off. If he makes it back to being an impact player in the NBA, more power to him. I wish him the best."
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)