Screw up my salary cap, and I'll sue!Darius Miles.
Miles' salary was taken off Portland's books when his knee injury was deemed "career ending." His $9 million salary for this year and next will count towards the Blazers' cap should Miles successfully make a comeback -- which is defined as playing in 10 NBA games this season. So far, counting his preseason stint with the Celtics and recent run with the Grizzlies, he's played eight of the ten -- but was waived by Memphis before his salary for this year would become guaranteed.
The obvious -- though perhaps not gentlemanly -- move for any of Portland's rivals would be to sign Miles to a ten-day contract and give him a little run at least twice. That would put the Blazers over the luxury tax threshold for this season, and make it tougher for Portland to add a free agent after the year.
Which leads us to the threatening letter, sent by team president Larry Miller on Thursday. (Full text is on SI.com)
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. Such conduct from a team would violate its fiduciary duty as an NBA joint venturer. 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.Now, I'm no lawyer... nor do I play one on TV... but it seems to me that the Blazers would have a pretty tough time winning this lawsuit. I suppose if a team was dumb enough to sign Miles, play him twice and then cut him, Portland might have a case. But what if someone signs him for, say, the rest of the year? Would a pro-rated portion of the league minimum paid be worth the opportunity to throw a monkey wrench in the Blazers' personnel plans for the next two years? Could Portland say Miles was signed specifically to mess up the Blazers in that scenario?
And what about Miles' rights in all this? The SI.com article included speculation that Miles might consider a lawsuit of his own, claiming the Blazers are interfering with his right to seek employment. Frankly, that seems like a lot more compelling case than the one Miller is threatening at this point.
But to me, the most interesting notion in all this is the part about NBA teams having a "fiduciary duty as an NBA joint venturer." If I'm reading that right -- and no guarantee there, my eyes tend to glaze over at the first sign of legal-ese -- he seems to be claiming that NBA teams cannot/should not take any action that isn't in the best interest of another NBA club.
Now there's a real pandora's box just waiting to be opened.
If the Blazers get anywhere with this threat, look for the next lawsuit to be from the Knicks, who will sue any team that attempts to sign LeBron James in 2010. Obviously, it is in the best interests of the league and all its joint venturers to have King James working as close to Madison Avenue as possible, right?
This story isn't over -- not by a long shot.