Until now, Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard had a secret it appears most of the NBA hadn't taken the time to discover for itself: Darius Miles is on the brink of blowing up the Blazers' salary-cap space.
Most of the NBA believed Miles still was eight regular-season games away from devastating the Blazers' salary cap, but Yahoo! Sports learned on Wednesday that Miles is just two games away.
Teams had been under the impression that the league's collective bargaining agreement demanded that Miles play 10 regular-season or postseason games for the $18 million – which is split evenly between this and next season – to return to the Blazers' payroll.
All along, the Blazers knew exactly that the preseason games counted, but a league official said Wednesday night, "He wanted to keep it quiet."
Apparently, no team had called the league for clarification on the rule that states the season is constituted by the "first day of training camp and ending immediately after the last game of the NBA Finals."
The league office confirmed to Yahoo! Sports that the six preseason games that Miles played for the Boston Celtics counts toward the 10. Before the Memphis Grizzlies waived him on Tuesday night to avoid guaranteeing his contract for the rest of the season, Miles played two regular-season games that pushed him to eight total.
Any team in the NBA simply can sign Miles to a 10-day contract, play him twice and punch out one of the summer's top free-agent destinations. The Blazers are a prime destination for free agents, and the cap space also made them a fierce competitor for sign-and-trade deals. If Miles returns to the salary cap, he also will push Portland into the luxury tax. That means every team under the tax would benefit with about $250,000 of revenue sharing from Portland.
Most NBA executives are reveling in the fact that clogging the Portland cap could be a way to slow the rapid rise of the franchise. Beyond that, there is a level of jealousy over the way that Portland's owner, Paul Allen, buys up draft picks from poorer teams for his GM to use.
All in all, league executives have been rooting hard for Miles to play those 10 games after he missed two years with a knee injury that Portland and league doctors declared was career-ending.
"Someone is going to scoop him up and play him those two games now," one Eastern Conference executive said when told the news on Wednesday night. "Portland is screwed."
One West GM thinks the Denver Nuggets, who moved under the luxury tax threshold on Wednesday, will be motivated to sign Miles.
Another GM wondered whether the Blazers might pick Miles off waivers and just keep him on the bench, although it's unlikely the NBA would allow that. Portland also has been collecting insurance money on Miles, and it just seems too unlikely that Allen and Pritchard would go to such an extreme. Nevertheless, the Blazers have an incredible amount to lose here.
When reached on Wednesday night, Jeff Wechsler, Miles' agent, said he suspected the rule clarification might be true but had yet to get a confirmation from the NBA.
"We're not focused on that," he said. "Our focus is on Darius getting back and playing ball again. Our focus is not trying to hurt the Blazers."