Despite recent litigation threats against NBA teams interested in signing free agent forward Darius Miles by the Portland Trail Blazers, the NBA and the players' union put out memos in his defense today. The NBA Player's Association also has filed a grievance against the Blazers.
Miles, who played for Boston in the preseason, only has to play in two more games in order to cause the Blazers to be on the hook for $18 million in salary. Portland sent out an e-mail to NBA teams yesterday threatening to sue if a team attempted to sign Miles to damage the franchise financially. But during an e-mail sent league-wide yesterday, the NBA stated: "This is to inform you that Darius Miles has cleared waivers as of 10 a.m., EST, Friday, Jan. 9, 2009. He is now a free agent. The NBA has received the e-mail sent last night by Portland to all teams. Under league rules, teams are free to sign Darius Miles to a Uniform Player Contract if they wish to secure his services as a player, and any such contract would be approved by the NBA."
Through a statement, NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter also expressed his disappointment on Portland's threat on Miles and added that the union in filing a grievance.
“We are shocked at the brazen attempt by the Portland Trail Blazers to try to prevent Darius Miles from continuing his NBA career. Their attempt to intimidate the other 29 NBA teams by threatening frivolous litigation merely for signing this capable NBA veteran is a clear violation of the anti-collusion and other provisions of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. We will vigorously defend Darius’ rights”
About two months ago, the Globe reported that the Trail Blazers were bad-mouthing Miles to other teams in hopes of keeping them from signing him. The former Blazer, who played for Boston during the preseason, would be on Portland’s books for $18 million if he played in 10 games. Miles later confirmed to the Globe that he believed that Portland’s actions were true and hoped that bygones could be bygones, while the Blazers declined comment.
Yahoo! Sports recently reported that the six preseason games that Miles played with Boston counted. A Celtics source said that they believed the preseason games counted toward Miles’ 10-game count, but never checked with NBA since it wasn’t a factor in their interest in him. The countdown to Portland getting hit financially by Miles is down to two after he played in two games with Memphis before recently being waived. Worried about the potential financial hit, the Blazers recently sent a threatening e-mail to teams interested in the free agent.
“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,” Blazers president Larry Miller wrote in the email to representatives of every NBA team. “Such conduct by a team would violate its fiduciary duty as an NBA joint venture. 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.”
When asked of the e-mail, one NBA owner said: "I looked at the April's Fools at the end of the message but it wasn't there."