The Trail Blazers were in the midst of a seismic shift in January, 2004 when they traded point guard Jeff McInnis and seldom-used center Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje to the Cleveland Cavaliers for small forward Darius Miles. The old Rasheed Wallace-Bonzi Wells regime was done. The players acquired in exchange for them were either placeholders or underachieving. The Blazers needed a bold new direction...a new generation upon which to build. Zach Randolph was the cornerstone of that rebuilding project. Darius Miles was slated to be his wingman.
During stops with the Clippers and Cavs, Miles' story had been the same: boundless talent limited by inattention to detail. His Cleveland stint had been particularly disappointing. The Cavaliers traded franchise star Andre Miller in exchange for Miles and he ended up averaging only 9 ppg, taking up perpetual residence in coach Paul Silas' doghouse. Portland was a chance to regain his promise, muted at the tender age of 22.
In less than a month with the team Miles proved how great that promise could be. This guy could move. Imagine a lighting bolt translated into poetry. That was Miles running the floor. Given a clear lane to the hoop his dunks were beautiful...not some cheap, plastic-reality Barbie kind of beautiful but true classic Venus on a Clamshell form. He ran, he dribbled, he soared. He was young, matching Randolph perfectly in that respect. It didn't take much work to envision a dynamic forward tandem sizzling across the Rose Garden floor for years to come. As the 2003-04 season came to a close skepticism gave way to anticipation and Portland fans rubbed their hands in glee.
Then Miles signed a six-year deal.
Blaming the Blazers for inking Darius would be disingenuous. Everybody at the time thought he was a good hire. Observers had raved about his potential since his rookie season. This guy was a small mental step away from greatness. Finally the light appeared to be dawning. The Blazers just might have stolen an A-List star. Not signing him would have been unthinkable.
As the contract ink dried "unthinkable" quickly became "unwatchable". His stats didn't suffer. In fact the only thing keeping Miles from being higher on this list is the career high production he posted in Portland per game and per minute. One could argue the Blazers actually got a better version of Darius Miles than any other team did, and thus he shouldn't be disappointing at all. But stats don't tell the story, nor can they indicate how far short of his ceiling he fell. Blazer fans witnessed it firsthand as Miles let rebounds fall in front of him, slid around halfheartedly on defense, and steadfastly refused to drive the lane under all but the most obvious of circumstances. Darius sauntering up the floor only to hold the ball and loft a jumper was as dissonant as a cheetah standing in a barn stall waiting to be milked. That's not why you were put on this earth, dude. He wasn't falling short of potential through inattention. This seemed wholly intentional.
And then Miles became a P.R. disaster, lofting racial epithets at his coach and hanging around shadier parts of town. Portland fans realized that this next generation of players hadn't vanquished the Jailblazers but stepped into their shoes: Version 2.0, now with less experience, less talent, less drive, and 62% fewer wins. Then Miles got injured. Then Miles ate his way into oblivion, exacerbating his injury problems. Then Miles took medical retirement and the Blazers were done with him, seemingly the end of a sad story...until he rose like an undead specter three years after his last Portland appearance to play pre-season games for Boston and in a brief regular-season run with Memphis. That court time, in which his contributions were meaningless, voided the cap relief his retirement brought the Blazers just when Portland had planned a free-agent strike. This prompted ineffective and totally embarrassing missives full of whining from Blazers management to front offices around the league, each pen stroke reflecting Miles' long shadow.
In short, everything involving Darius Miles ended up a disaster for Portland. Even more than Randoph, who at least had some major seasons for the Blazers before being dumped for pocket change, Miles symbolizes the entire scope of the Jailblazer debacle from the on-court letdowns and character flaws right on through to the incompetence of management during that period. He gave Portland a brief glimpse of hope then buried it beneath a massive pile of garbage, making "Disappointment" his middle name and most enduring legacy.
For running the old bait-and-switch on a franchise that had already been kicked to its knees Darius Miles earns the #5 spot in our list of All-Time Most Disappointing Acquisitions.
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The list nears its conclusion: #6 Greg Oden #7 Martell Webster #8 Sebastian Telfair #9 Damon Stoudamire #10 Derek Anderson #11 Walter Davis #12 Rudy Fernandez #13 James Robinson #14 Scottie Pippen #15 Walter Berry