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Fans say Miles to go

On Sports
by: SAM FORENCICH, Blazer forward Darius Miles’ recovery from knee surgery isn’t so much a question, but his future with the team is.

You've spoken, Trail Blazer fans. But not many of you have spoken up on behalf of Darius Miles.

A week ago, I asked you to tell me what you thought should happen when the Portland forward recovers from his microfracture knee surgery and is ready to play. Should the Blazers use him? Or send him down the road?

About 76 percent, voting by regular mail and online, said, most commonly, 'Don't let this man anywhere near the team.' Many left comments on our Web site, and the tenor was usually the same - fans don't trust Miles not to mess up the great chemistry on this year's team.

Only 24 percent asked that Miles be given a chance to play.

What's likely to happen? Neither, actually.

I don't think Miles is going anywhere, at least this season, and I don't think he's going to play. I expect he's going to continue to rehabilitate his knee and exist outside the team's active roster.

He is going to be the captain of the all-limbo team.

'We're going to do absolutely everything we can to get this guy on the basketball court,' General Manager Kevin Pritchard said Wednesday via telephone from Boston. 'He's had a long road back, and he's worked hard. Hopefully, he can get back on the court, but he's still a ways away.'

But I'm betting that doesn't necessarily mean he'll ever get there. Pritchard is too smart to let it happen and too crafty to say anything that could get him into trouble later.

Chemistry is a delicate thing, whether you're talking about basketball teams or mixing volatile compounds in a laboratory. And nobody in charge of the well-being of this franchise wants to be responsible for anything that might cause the Blazers to implode.

From what I can ascertain, they don't even want Miles suited up for games - whether he plays or not.

And, frankly, whom would he be able to beat out for playing time? If you consider him a power forward, is he going to steal minutes from LaMarcus Aldridge? No way. He's not even going to take backup minutes from Travis Outlaw. And if you see him as a small forward, there's not much chance he's going to push Martell Webster or James Jones to the bench, either.

He's virtually untradable right now, too. He's vastly overpaid, and nobody wants to give up anything for him until they've seen him play, and he's not going to play. In the last year of his contract, he will have trade value as an expiring contract - but not until then.

At the same time, I don't see the Blazers stepping up to buy out his hefty deal. I think one strategy could be just to let him dangle in the wind.

The idea would be, Let's see what happens. If he makes remarkable physical improvement, practices well with the team and someone gets hurt, there could be an opening for him to play. Maybe.

Otherwise, perhaps Miles will choose to retire - in which case the team would be eligible for salary-cap relief. I don't expect Miles to do that, but you never know.

Sometime down the line, though, there could be a confrontation, if or when he insists he can play. At that point, I'm not sure what would happen.

I cannot recall a recent situation like this one. This is a player who was good enough to receive a very sweet contract. But now that he's getting close to being ready to play, the team seems to want no part of him.

So it's very possible the Blazers will be paying $26.25 million over this season and the next two years to not play for them.

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