PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—The boos were exactly what Darius Miles expected.
The former Trail Blazer was showered with jeers when he took the court at the Rose Garden on Wednesday night with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Ultimately, his presence did not make much of a difference in the game, and the Blazers won 94-90. But Miles continues to make an impact on Portland’s bottom line.
The Blazers waived him last season when a doctor said his knee injury was career ending. Once he played in 10 games this season, however, the remaining $18 million on his contract with Portland once again counted against the team’s salary cap for this season and next.
And thus the animosity from the fans. Because of Miles’ return to the NBA, the Blazers have less cap space to maneuver when it comes to player personnel.
“I got booed when I had a Portland jersey on,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve heard them.”
Shortly before Miles hit the 10-game plateau, the Blazers sent out a now-infamous e-mail warning of legal action should any team sign him. The Grizzlies ignored the threat and signed Miles for the remainder of the season on Jan. 30.
“I worked hard to get back where I am,” Miles said. I’m happy and blessed to get a second chance to play again in the NBA.”
Miles had six points and five rebounds Wednesday night.
Brandon Roy had 24 points, including two key layups in the final minutes, along with nine assists for the Blazers.
After trailing early by 16 points, the Grizzlies went ahead 86-84 with less than 5 minutes to go. But Roy’s layup followed by Travis Outlaw’s 3-pointer with 2:31 left put the Blazers up 90-86.
Marc Gasol made a pair of free throws for Memphis before Roy had another layup to make it 92-88. Rookie O.J. Mayo’s finger-roll narrowed it to 92-90 with 5.4 seconds left. Roy, coming off his second All-Star game appearance, made a pair of free throws for the final margin.
Portland has won eight of its last 11 games and is 21-5 at home, but this was their first game since the All-Star break.
“This was a tough game,” coach Nate McMillan said. “It’s not surprising though. Often, when there are a number of days off, it’s sometimes a disadvantage. We were fortunate to play really well in parts of the first half. But in the second half, a second wind never came for us.”
The Blazers were without center Greg Oden, who has a bone chip in his left knee cap. The 7-foot rookie center, the top pick in the 2007 draft who missed all of last season after surgery on his right knee, is considered day-to-day.
But Portland saw the return of starting point guard Steve Blake, who had missed 13 of the last 14 games with a separated right shoulder. He finished with seven points.
Miles came into the game with about four minutes gone in the second half, and was met by thunderous boos by the sellout crowd at the Rose Garden. The crowd then cheered when Outlaw blocked Miles’ on one end, and got down for a fast break layup on the other to make it 44-32.
The Blazers went up 48-34 on Roy’s jumper. But Memphis closed the first half on a 13-3 run, narrowing it to 57-53.
Memphis tied it at 60 early in the second half on Mike Conley’s jumper. The Grizzlies kept it close for the rest of the way, and Miles’ dunk brought Memphis to within 77-76.
Miles played for the Blazers from 2003-06, but missed the past two seasons after he had microfracture surgery on his knee. The Blazers signed him to a six-year, $48 million deal in 2004.
The game was largely overshadowed by the rumors that swirled around the two teams as Thursday’s trade deadline loomed. Both Portland and Memphis made minor deals on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies traded a conditional second-round draft pick in 2013 to Los Angeles in exchange for veteran center Chris Mihm.
Mihm has appeared in 18 games this season, averaging two points and 1.9 rebounds while playing 4.8 minutes.
The Blazers were involved in a three-way deal with Sacramento and Chicago that sent Portland reserve forward Ike Diogu to the Kings. The Blazers got forward Michael Ruffin from Chicago via Sacramento, and a $3 million trade exception in the deal.
Diogu played in 19 games this season for Portland, averaging 1.4 points and 0.9 rebounds in 3.8 minutes. Ruffin has not played this season because of injury.
The Grizzlies were coming off a 117-99 loss to Utah on Tuesday night.
Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard was not available before the game, leading to speculation a deal was in the works. But Pritchard was in his customary seat next to team owner Paul Allen at gametime. … Former Blazer Damon Stoudamire is an assistant coach for the Grizzlies under coach Lionel Hollins, also a former Trail Blazer. Hollins’ No. 14 jersey hangs from the rafters of the Rose Garden. … Dennis Dixon, the former Oregon quarterback currently with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, sat courtside.