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Miles and the Cap: Part 2

A lot of people wrote me over the weekend regarding the reported Darius Miles tryout in Boston see PLJ's fanpost here:  what it would do to our cap space should he sign with another team, and whether I thought that was likely.  I have split the answer into two posts.  The cap numbers are in the post below.  This post discusses the likelihood of Darius actually playing with another team and the question of whether another GM would sign him just to eat into Portland’s cap space.

Obviously the first question to be addressed in this scenario is Darius’ fitness.  If he can come back near pre-injury form it’s guaranteed somebody, somewhere is going to give him a shot.  His retirement was for legitimate, confirmed medical reasons, however.  That, combined with what we’ve heard about Darius’ work ethic from various teams he played for in his healthier days, makes me think a full recovery is about as likely as you finding Ben and me pole-dancing down at Vegas Summer League while Greg Oden and Von Wafer stuff 20’s down our G-strings.  Nice thought…dreamy in certain circles…not gonna happen.

Since we mentioned full recovery we should also consider the opposite.  If Miles can’t suit up--meaning he can’t run and jump and shoot at an NBA level--he can’t be signed.  He has to play in order to make a difference on the court or on Portland’s balance books.  The last news we heard of him was that he definitively can’t play.  This seems far more likely to remain true than the other.

This still leaves open the possibility of a middle ground, which people seem to fear:  Miles being able to play just enough to see court time and some other GM signing him in order to bring his salary back on our books and eat away at cap space.  It’s an interesting scenario, but in my opinion fairly far fetched for any number of reasons.

--The GM may sign players but the owner still signs the checks.  The minimum salary for a player of Miles’ experience is just over a million bucks.  Once upon a time there might have been an option to sign him to a couple of 10-day contracts and squeeze ten games out of him but that option left with Miles’ recent 10-game suspension for drug policy violations.  The first ten games Darius is back will be spent at home serving the suspension.  Then he has to play ten more to affect Portland’s cap.  A team is allowed to sign a player to a maximum of two 10-day contracts before having to sign him for the whole season.  That means the owner would be on the hook for the whole million.  Sure that’s chump change compared to a lot of NBA salaries, but you go look a successful businessman in the eye and explain to him why you’re wasting a whole million dollars of his money for a guy who won’t help your team in any appreciable way.  Marc Cuban is about the only guy rich enough and twisted enough to go for it.

--The GM doesn’t decide who plays either.  A coach’s agenda is to win and keep his team in line, not mess around with somebody else’s cap space.  In fact I guarantee you no coach in the league is thinking about his own cap space when the game is going on.  You’re going to go tell your coach to play the Limping Lardbucket--or even take him off of the inactive list--when he’s had his 10th-14th guys on his team busting their rears for a scrap of playing time?  What happens when the opposition dunks on Darius after the ball gets turned over in that last, token ten seconds you put him in?  People don’t generally screw with games that way.

--What tangible benefit would this strategy get you?  You’ve paid the million bucks, you’ve messed around with your team…for what?  Portland can still do whatever it wants to do cap-wise.  As the post below shows if the Blazers have targeted a big-name guy they can still get him with Darius on the books.  The only difference is they might have to cut a player or two to make it work.  This doesn’t blunt Portland’s competitive edge at all.  At best your benefit would be making the Blazers cut an indeterminate player or players of their choosing.  Maybe you think you can pick up that guy out of free agency?  If you really wanted him that badly the Blazers would probably trade him to you if they’re willing to cut him.  At least then you’d be sure of getting him.  Doing it this way involves three steps all going right (they make a move that necessitates cutting someone they wouldn’t have otherwise, they cut the guy you want, he signs with you in free agency).  That’s not how it works.

--Hey, Big Chief Screws-With-Cap...what happens if the Blazers take a very likely route and trade Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract for a major player before the trade deadline this year instead of waiting to turn it into cap space next summer?  Then they've made their major move without cap considerations coming into play at all and can still re-sign any and all guys they choose.  At that point your benefit for signing Darius is zeeeero.  Wah-wah-waaaaaaaah.

--As soon as the charade began it would make news in Portland and after that nationally…at least in the blogs of whoever Darius’ team plays that night.  You know it would get a big shout out in this blog and all over Truehoop and from there to ESPN.  Granted this wouldn’t necessarily stop a GM from pursuing a strategy but it would ensure that everybody knew exactly what he was doing…and his coach was doing…and his owner was doing…and how cheap it was.  It’s an exclusive fraternity.  These are professionals with a certain amount of pride.  Nobody wants to be known as that guy…the one who jerked around with somebody else’s cap by signing a useless player just because he could.  You might have to work with Kevin Pritchard at some point.  You have to do business with those other GM’s too.  What’s more the league would probably look into such an operation, maybe to the extent of modifying the rule to say thirty seconds a game for ten games isn’t enough.  The guy has to play five minutes a game or something.  This would probably become known as the “Darius Miles” rule but your name would still be associated with it.  If you’re really lucky it would become known as the “Insert Your Name Here” rule instead and then every time somebody took medical retirement people would remember what a cheeseball you are.

--Last but not least, how often have you heard of this happening?  How often does a guy come back from medical retirement at all, let alone in a semi-scandalous way?  Some moves are unprecedented because nobody’s been enough of a visionary genius to see the possibilities before.  Other times things just…don’t…work that way.  This doesn’t seem like a visionary genius moment.

Could this middle-ground scenario happen?  Anything could, I suppose.  But I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  It would take a special brand of putz--a special cadre of putzes really, when you count owners, coaches, and staff--to make a move with this combination of ineffectiveness and publicity.  I doubt you’ll see people lining up to take the shot.

--Dave (