There can never be enough rivalries in sports and the NBA is about to get a good one real soon. It’s bound to happen. It’s just a matter of when and who will serve as the Portland Trail Blazers’ dance partner.
On Thursday, Blazers president Larry Miller sent an e-mail to the other 29 teams in the NBA basically threatening litigation if any club signed former Blazers forward Darius Miles. You see, if Miles plays in two more games this season, Portland will be forced to pay a luxury tax as the $18 million remaining on his contract would count against the team's salary cap.
If the e-mail sounds petty, ridiculous and completely without merit, you would be right on all fronts. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Daniel Gilbert hit "reply all" on the e-mail and said that while the Cavs wouldn't sign Miles, Miller’s e-mail was "dead wrong."
NBA Players Association director Billy Hunter went so far as calling the Blazers' e-mail "arrogant and stupid," while the league reminded all teams that Miles was an eligible free agent and it would approve any deal he gets.
The question now is which team will sign Miles and, essentially, flip the bird to Miller and the Blazers. Such a move would not only ruin the Blazers’ cap situation this year and next year, but also force them to cut a $15 million luxury-tax check that would be distributed amongst the teams they threatened.
So where will Miles play next? Here are my five likeliest destinations, at least on a 10-day contract and a two-game appearance that would cost the Blazers millions and set up the league’s newest rivalry.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder – This would finally heat up a mini-rivalry that already features Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in the Northwest Division. How great would it be if Miles was in uniform when the Thunder played the Blazers on Feb. 6 and made his second and most important appearance five days later at the Rose Garden when the Thunder came to town? I can just imagine Miles smiling and waving at Miller and the Blazers brass sitting courtside as he checked into the game late in the fourth quarter.
2. Dallas Mavericks – Who doesn’t like a challenge or a rivalry more than Mark Cuban? I can see Cuban signing Miles just to mix it up with Miller and the Blazers. Hey, things can get boring this time of year in the NBA and he might be looking to heat things up. Besides the Mavericks are currently battling the Blazers for playoff position.
3. Los Angeles Lakers – The Blazers and Lakers were already shaping up to have a rivalry for the next few years with Oden and Andrew Bynum manning the paint, while the upstart Blazers try to add a few more pieces to take down the Lakers. Signing Miles would not only help the Lakers, who've been hit by the injury bug with the losses of Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton and Lamar Odom, but they would hurt the Blazers' chances of adding any more talent to an already stacked team for the next couple years.
4. New York Knicks – You know how they say misery loves company? Well, the Knicks are no strangers to cutting luxury-tax checks and paying a player for doing nothing but taking up cap space. So the Knicks might be looking for someone to join them by signing Miles.
5. Utah Jazz – This would seem like an unlikely destination for Miles, but the Jazz are just a half game behind the Blazers for second in the Northwest Division and a playoff spot, so why not take a shot at their rival's cap and possibly force them to trade away a player or two? I also like the idea of a possible Larry Miller (Jazz owner) vs. Larry Miller (Blazers president) feud.