Turns out the Portland Trail Blazers aren't in the clear with Darius Miles' cap-killing contract, after all.
A person with knowledge of the situation has confirmed to me a Yahoo! Sports report that the six preseason games Miles played for Boston count against the 10-game threshold that would cause MIles' $18 million to go back on the Blazers' books. The money would be split evenly over this season and next, thus crippling any plans the Blazers might've had to be a player in free agency.
It had been believed -- even among GMs who were monitoring the Miles situation -- that the Blazers dodged a bullet when Memphis released him this week after playing only two games. Not so; according to the CBA, Miles is only two games away from wrecking Portland's cap situation.
It is hard to empathize with a team trying to get out from under a bad contract. If you sign a player to a bad contract, you should be prepared to live with the consequences. The Blazers have been in that frame of mind all along, so they're not looking for sympathy. G.M. Kevin Pritchard told me in an email that he "planned for all the scenarios."
The part of this that makes me queasy is the notion that rival GMs are salivating at the prospect of signing Miles and running him onto the floor for two games just for the sake of hurting the Blazers. There has to be some mechanism, some power at David Stern's discretion, to prevent such obvious abuse. I will let you know if such authority exists, but there is one reprieve at Portland's disposal for sure: If Miles' salary goes back on the books, the Blazers can apply after a year to have the final year taken off. Depending on the motives of the team that signs Miles and plays him for those two games, excusing the final year would seem to be a fair compromise -- one that doesn't fully forgive Portland for giving Miles the contract in the first place, but doesn't over-penalize, either.
UPDATE: Here is how it would work if Miles reached the 10-game threshold and the Blazers applied to have the second $9 million installment wiped from their books. According to a person familiar with the situation, the rules allow Portland to apply for relief one year after the injury that caused the disability. The team applies to the league office, which works in conjunction with medical experts and the NBA Players Association to reach a consensus. It would have to be determined if Miles is unable to play due to the injury or due to lack of skill -- a gray area if there ever was one. If it is determined that Miles can't play anymore skill-wise, Portland clearly wouldn't be given relief on the second year of the money.
UPDATE: Now the Trail Blazers have put the other 29 teams on notice: Sign Miles for the expressed purpose of harming us, and we'll sue you.
Although the notion of a team using Miles to hurt the Blazers is just wrong, the fact that Pritchard has prepared for this situation from the beginning tells me that this isn't as catastrophic to Portland's long-term plan as some of suggested. It would be nice to have cap flexibility, but Pritchard has some other valuable assets -- young, appealing players on reasonable contracts that could be packaged in a trade for the piece that might push the Blazers over the top. And remember: Regardless of the Miles situation, there's nothing to prevent a marquee free agent from going to Portland in a sign-and-trade.