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Pritch-Slapping Portland


We have quite the interesting thread going on in the fan post below but I wanted to add a few above-the-fold comments on the news that Portland has threatened legal action against any team that may sign Darius Miles with the intention to cost the Blazers a bunch of cap space.

First and foremost, I think this little escapade should move the NBA and the players to revisit the issue of medical retirement.  Wolves fans had a first-hand example of seeing Miles play this week and, as 3 Shades of Blue's Chip Crain nicely stated, he gave more to his team than Calvin Booth and Mark Madsen did to theirs.  Regardless of any associated legalese, the guy can still play and any claim otherwise at this point misses the basic problem here: medical retirement is screwy and needs to be reworked. 

As a philosophical point, and once again ignoring what the legal issues of this situation are, I don't think it is a stretch to say that the Blazers are in the wrong here.  They issued a clear threat of nuisance to every team in the league against signing a specific player who is working hard to get back into the league.  I don't think the Blazers are stupid and it's hard to ignore what their basic message is here: We'll make your life hell if you cost us cap space and insurance money.  Legally, this isn't collusion but it sure is a clear indication of their intent and their belief that other teams will perform a rational actor cost/benefit calculation in order to avoid any legal trouble that may arise from them wanting to sign Miles.  In other words, they have threatened a nuclear option and are relying on a form of MAD in order to get what they want. I'll go back to something I wrote in the comment section below:

Diving into the world of political science, today’s reading assignment for everyone here is Man, the State, and War by Kenneth Waltz. Waltz is a neorealist who argues that nuclear proliferation is a beneficial form of balancing behavior because it raises the stakes for everyone involved should nations go to war with one another. I.e., if everyone has the bomb, no one will want to drop it because of MAD. Stretching the analogy, the Blazers have effectively raised the stakes for everyone in the NBA to sign a specific player. They have engaged in a neorealist balancing act and are, while not overtly colluding with other teams, betting on the rational actor model to guide themselves towards a predictable outcome. In other words, they know what they’re doing and you’re splitting hairs arguing that this is in good faith.

Thankfully, the league has responded and it appears that they have given the other 29 teams in the league the green light to pursue Miles. 

From a fan perspective, I hope that Miles will be signed and the Blazers will be out of cap space and insurance money.  Let's go back to the medical retirement issue for a moment.  The entire reason why we're at this point is because Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard was too cute by half in his attempt to clear cap space for the 2009 off-season (doesn't his money come off the books for 2010 anyway?).  The Blazers were clear in their desire to protect Miles with medical retirement but now that the financial benefit of this decision has been removed (Miles can play), they still want to play the part of the patriarch and reap the rewards of a decision that no longer realistically applies.  When Miles couldn't play, they talked about protecting him.  When it turns out that he can play, they talk about protecting themselves.  It doesn't take a genius to see what the motivating factor was in both cases: 2009 cap space and insurance money, not the well being of a player who clearly wants to play in the league.  Miles can play and his ability to do so trumps a doctor's decision on the issue of medical retirement, especially if he has been medically cleared to play in Boston and Memphis.  The guy is not medically retired and this fact should effectively eliminate any benefit granted to Portland on the basis that he is...regardless of any reasons why another club would want to give the guy a shot.  Portland is on the books for this money and they should have to pay as they were perfectly willing to accept the favorable alternative should Miles not have been able to come back.