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01-22-2004, 12:33 PM
Can Miles get the Blazers hopping?

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Darius Miles, where are you?

Last time Miles and I spoke it was early June. Miles was in Chicago, at Hoops Gym, working out with Michael Jordan's personal trainer, Tim Grover. Miles was coming off a horrible season in Cleveland and looked determined to turn into the star many NBA scouts and GMs thought he could be when he went No. 3 in the 2000 NBA Draft.

He was lifting weights, strengthening that surgically repaired knee and working on that tepid jump shot. Day after day, Miles was there. Working, grunting, pushing himself. The NBA season was four months away. The fact that Miles was anywhere near a gym had Grover believing Miles was ready to do something special this season.

"Normally, I have to ride Darius to get him in here," Grover told Insider. "This year it's totally different. I don't have to motivate him anymore. Last year gave him all the motivation he needs."

Darius Miles
Portland Trail Blazers

37 8.9 4.5 2.2 .432 .542

The task before Grover was monumental. Charles Barkley, who also frequents the gym, quipped to Insider that "if Tim Grover can teach Darius Miles to shoot then he deserves a lifetime achievement award. I'm not sure if anyone can fix that."

Grover was more concerned about Miles' knee. He didn't rehab it properly the summer before and felt the effects of it on the court.

"We've got to get his explosiveness back," Grover said. "Before, he relied on his athletic ability to get him through. When some of that went away, he was forced to start using his basketball skills instead of his athleticism to beat people. . .He lost his confidence last year. Once you lose that, everything goes downhill. Darius has the ability to be an All-Star in the league. Our goal is to put him in that position this summer."

Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon. Miles is packing his bags again. The explosiveness is back, but the improved game that Miles was supposed to bring with it never materialized. Another season gone awry has forced Cavaliers GM Jim Paxson to make another rash move. He's traded Miles to the Blazers for Jeff McInnis and Ruben Boumtje Boumtje.

Remember how many people in Cleveland thought the Cavs got the better end of the deal when they swapped Andre Miller for Miles 18 months ago? What does it say about Miles that in this short space, Paxson was willing to swap him for a journeyman point guard who, though talented, has a notoriously tough time getting along with his teammates?

"When we traded for Darius, he was a young guy with potential," Paxson said in the press conference Wednesday. "I'm not disappointed [in Miles' development]. Unless you have a crystal ball, you can't determine how quickly a player is going to develop. In two or three years he could become more of a consistent player that's a starter. What I'm worried about is how we can find a way to get better now and win before that time."

In other words, the Cavs saw enough to feel that Miles wasn't in their future. You think watching LeBron dominate every night convinced Paxson that age and lack of college experience weren't Miles' only problems?

All of the talk about Miles' focus, run-ins with coach Paul Silas and his recent bout of sleeping in had nothing to do with it. It's still Miles' inability to shoot the ball that's torpedoing his stock. When Miles is on the break, in the paint, or leaping for an offensive rebound, he's very effective. He takes 44 percent of his shots from close range, dunks or tip ins, and shoots 58 percent from the field doing it. It's the 56 percent that are jumpers that kills him. He's shooting just 33 percent from the field when he takes a jumper.

His jump shot field goal percentage isn't that far off from what LeBron's doing. Seventy percent of James' shots are jumpers, and he's only shooting 36 percent from the field when he takes them. The difference is that James knows how to get his own shot and isn't afraid to take the jumper when a defense sags and gives it to him. Miles freezes. Defenses never play him tight, taking away his ability to explode to the basket.

Said one NBA scout: "Right now Darius is still more of an athlete than a basketball player, but I've seen progress. If he ever learns to shoot, he could be an amazing player. He's got excellent ball handling skills for a guy his size and can run just about anyone out of the gym. It's all about the shot and finding other ways to score when the shot's not falling. I wouldn't give up on him yet."

Blazers GM John Nash felt the same way. He's been trolling for trades for the past six months and really found a winner here. The team planned to waive McInnis this summer (his contract was only guaranteed for $300,000 if he was waived before July 1st) and Boumtje Boumtje was giving them nothing. McInnis never had off-the-court issues in Portland, but sources claim he's a bad chemistry guy -- his teammates weren't fond of playing with him.

In return they get a free look at Miles for 40 games. If the Blazers get out and run, something the Cavs rarely did, he could be a hit. Miles prospered in L.A. bringing energy off the bench and flying up and down the floor. The Cavs' more deliberate style really grounded him. Will he turn into a good jump shooter in that span? It's very doubtful, but what the Blazers will be looking for is evidence that he can do enough other things (run the floor, rebound, defend, block shots) to justify re-signing him this summer.

Rasheed Wallace is as good as gone whether he's traded or leaves via free agency. Nash had to start thinking about his replacement. If Miles is a bust, the team loses nothing. The Blazers will just let him slip away in free agency this summer. If he's a hit, they own his Bird Rights and can lock him up. It's a gamble worth taking on such a talented kid.

Chalk this one up as a nice win for the Blazers and one last chance for Miles to prove his growing number of detractors wrong.

Around the League

If Miles still has so much potential, why did Paxson swap him for McInnis? Blame LeBron James. James didn't ask the Cavs to trade away his closest friend, but he did confide in Paxson and coach Paul Silas recently that he'd grown weary of running the point for the team.

After watching James play point forward for 40 games, Paxson, Silas and numerous NBA scouts all came to the conclusion that James would be better off playing the wing. His ability to handle the ball is special and his unselfishness is one of his greatest assets, but the Cavs were asking the 19-year-old to do too much.

"We felt it was important to add a point guard that would give us an upgrade and get LeBron off the ball full-time," Paxson said. "For this team to grow, we feel we need to get [LeBron] at his natural position out on the wing."

Paxson had been working the phones for weeks trying to find a legit point guard to come in and take some of that pressure off of Miles. Apparently, Paxson felt that his two prize offseason acquisitions the past two seasons -- Dajuan Wagner and Kevin Ollie -- weren't cutting it.

Jeff McInnis
Shooting Guard
Cleveland Cavaliers

39 11.9 2.4 5.0 .471 .763

McInnis was an interesting choice. He put up good numbers in L.A. for two seasons (13.8 ppg, 5.9 apg) and decent numbers in Portland this season (11.9 ppg, 5 apg). His reputation as a locker room lawyer didn't seem to dissuade Paxson that McInnis could help the team now. Paxson claims that the team won't be inclined to let McInnis go in free agency this summer.

"This is not a short-term fix," Paxson said. "He'll help us now and in the future. He was as good a point guard as we were going to get. He's one of those guys where you look at his stats and you're surprised how productive he's been in his career."

Fair enough, but despite what Paxson claims, the fact that the team ended up shipping Miles off for a journeyman is just another in a long line of missteps for the Cavs GM. Several other GMs were incredulous that Paxson waited so long to trade Miles.

"He could've gotten much, much more for him a month or two ago," one GM said. "He waited until the guy's value was at rock bottom."

In essence, Paxson ended up swapping Andre Miller for Jeff McInnis and Boumtje Boumtje. While the folks in Cleveland like to point out that Miller bombed in Los Angles too, his stellar season with the Nuggets this year has redeemed Miller as one of the best young point guards in the league.

Under Paxson's watch the team has screwed up a number of drafts (drafting Dajuan Wagner over Amare Stoudemire and Caron Butler; taking DeSagana Diop over Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph, Vladimir Radmanovic and Joe Johnson; swapping the draft rights of Jamal Crawford for Chris Mihm; taking Trajan Langdon over Corey Maggette and Ron Artest) and seriously overpaid for middling talent like Ollie and Ira Newble.

Paxson has somewhat redeemed himself lately. The Cavs clearly tanked last season to have a chance at James and it's paid off big time. Paxson also found Carlos Boozer in the second round in what had to be the steal of 2002 Draft. Boozer has emerged as the team's second-best player and is a very solid building block for the future. And, it's hard to argue with the trade that sent Ricky Davis packing to Boston for Eric Williams and Tony Battie. Both Williams and Battie have given the Cavs a work ethic that the team had lacked in the past.

What's next for Cleveland? The team has quietly put together a nice array of veterans to surround LeBron and Boozer. Rumors that Zydrunas Ilgauskas is also on the block continue to run rampant through the league, though Paxson insists that he wants to keep Z. Regardless, Ilgauskas isn't part of the long-term plan. His contract expires after next season and there's little chance of the Cavs keeping him around after that.

Expect Paxson to turn his focus on three young players -- Wagner, Kedrick Brown and Diop. The team needs at least one of them to play up to their potential. Wagner was considered one of the most lethal scorers in the 2002 Draft, but injuries have limited his effectiveness so far. Brown is an amazing athlete and a good on the ball defender whose offensive game is still emerging. Diop has the size and athleticism to be a dominant center, but he's struggled to pick up the basic fundamentals of the game. If one more young player can emerge as a star, the Cavs will be a formidable force in the future. If all three bomb (the jury's still out on all of them) the Cavs will struggle to get out of the lottery anytime soon.

Darius Miles for Jeff McInnis is one thing. But what inquiring minds around the league really want to know is whether Blazers GM John Nash is still trying to trade Rasheed Wallace. Conflicting reports out of Portland over the last week have put Wallace's future with the Blazers in doubt.
Nash isn't saying much.

"I was quoted once as saying that a trade was 'likely' . . . well this is the extent of that," Nash told the Oregonian. "Whether there are any further trades, that remains to be seen. I will continue to work the phones and see what is happening."

There is a huge amount of trade talk going on right now, but that doesn't mean every GM has the cell phone super glued to his head. Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe told Insider on Wednesday that it's been very quiet in Denver.
"We really aren't looking to do anything," Vandeweghe told Insider. "I think if you look at our team, we really like the mix that we have. We have a lot of promising young guys that we still want to get a closer look at, and our veterans have really helped us mature as a team this year."

Trade speculation in Denver has centered on Marcus Camby and Rodney White. Vandeweghe said he's not inclined to trade either guy right now.

"You hear those names because they can be free agents this summer, but we really like both of them. Marcus has been a big part of what we're doing here. I don't think it's easy to replace a guy like that. Rodney's really done a great job for us off the bench since Jon's been injured. We have some decisions to make this summer, but we really are happy with how things are going right now."

It's tough to argue with success. The Nuggets are winning, have no egregious contracts they want to move, already have plenty of cap room this summer (between $15 and $23 million depending on whether Camby opts out), have stockpiled several good first-round picks for the future, and have a number of young players on the team who are still developing. Most GMs would kill to be in Vandeweghe's place at the moment.

"It would really take a team calling us up and offering us a blockbuster deal we just couldn't refuse," Vandeweghe said, adding that he's received no such offers. "I just think we're on the right path now and I don't want to deviate from it."

Since Insider's report on the Bulls exploring trade options for Eddy Curry on Tuesday, Bulls GM John Paxson's phone has been ringing off the hook. "I don't think there's a GM in the league that didn't make a courtesy call," one GM told Insider with a chuckle. "I don't think he's inclined to make a move on either of the two big kids (Curry or Tyson Chandler) but the fact that they're listening means they'll be getting a ton of offers."
Eddy Curry
Chicago Bulls

35 12.5 6.0 0.8 .491 .709

One team that has a lot of interest in Curry and some tradable assets is the Grizzlies. Jerry West has been looking for a young, mobile center all year and Curry figures to be a nice fit. "If Hubie can't motivate him," another GM told Insider "I don't know who could. The fact that Hubie plays such a deep rotation should also help him. I'm not sure Curry can play 40 minutes a game. In Memphis he'll be asked to go 30 a night. That would be good for him."

What can the Grizzlies offer? Paxson will surely want Pau Gasol to be part of the deal. Though Jerry West isn't as high on Gasol as you'd think, he won't be willing to trade Gasol for Curry. Everyone else on their roster, however, is up for grabs. The Grizzlies might even be willing to swallow one of the Bulls bad contracts in return. Would a combo of Stromile Swift, Shane Battier and Dahntay Jones for Curry and Eddie Robinson or Jerome Williams be enough to pry away Curry?

Swift is the type of athletic four that the Bulls need running the floor, blocking shots and crashing the boards. His numbers in Memphis aren't great, but he's only getting 20 mpg behind Gasol. His per 48 minute statistics are off the charts. The fact that he's a restricted free agent this summer means the risk is minimal. Battier would be a perfect fit at small forward and Jones is a good, young athletic two. That's a lot to give up for Curry, but given the dearth of good young big men in the league, the Grizzlies would probably have to at least consider it.

Sonics GM Rick Sund is remaining true to his preseason promise not to sacrifice the future of the Sonics for a playoff run this season. The team has been deluged with offers from other teams for the likes of Ronald Murray, Vladimir Radmanovic and Brent Barry, but Sund is sticking to his guns.
He's told Insider since training camp that he wanted to use the year to play his young players and get a good handle on what they might become. With a chance at the playoffs within reach, he isn't wavering from that position.

Sonics coach Nate McMillan reiterated the stance after a 40 minute meeting with Sund on Tuesday.

"Do you fix something to get in the playoffs? Or do you fix something for the future of this franchise?" McMillan told the Seattle Post Intelligencer. "And I think that's what the organization has made a decision on. We knew that this was going to be a year where we want to try and make the playoffs, but we are also experimenting and developing and giving guys an opportunity to play."

"So to make a decision to patch something up, to win now, and it doesn't help you later, doesn't make any sense. . .We are who we are, and we're a young group with some talent that has shown we can win some games," McMillan said. "And we've been up and down, which we kind of expected, and have lost some games we felt like we should have won. But with all that said, you don't just go out and make a trade to patch something up."

The Sonics have an obvious hole at the four that needs fixing and several interesting big men are available. However, with just a month left before the NBA trade deadline, it looks like the Sonics are going to stick to their guns.

Peep Show

San Antonio Spurs: Flags and national anthems are nice, but Gregg Popovich still wants to win NBA Championship rings. "It's hard not to play for your country," Popovich said in the San Antonio Express News. "At the same time, you want to be at your best for the NBA season. It makes it important for us to walk that fine line at keeping them conditioned and working on execution and giving them rest." The coach says that he has seen fatigue set in for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Hedo Turkoglu and Manu Ginobili, four players who all participated in international competition this offseason. "It's a heck of a grind," Popovich said. "Those guys should be commended for putting in that kind of time. But it does affect their NBA season. There's no doubt about it."

New Jersey Nets: The New York Times is reporting that the Nets have been sold to Bruce Ratner for $300 million and the next step could very well be a move to Brooklyn. Of course, there are still obstacles to transfer the team across state lines once its lease ends in Continental Arena in 2008, but a last-minute proposal from Charles Kushner also for an estimated $300 million that would keep the team in New Jersey was not even looked at down the stretch. "He just wasn't there," one executive said of the dealings. "Ratner wanted this thing so bad, he did what it took to get it."

Detroit Pistons: The Pacers have beaten the Pistons three consecutive times now and Detroit players seem to be begging for game No. 4. "Come on, man, this is us," said Chauncey Billups in the Detroit News. "We're mentally tough. We don't believe in that. They are the No. 1 team right now and they are playing great. There is nothing bad you can say about them. But we would love to see them later in the season and in the playoffs." Ben Wallace agreed. "Like I said, they won the game (81-69 Tuesday night) so they can say whatever they want," he said. "They may say they're the best in the East or whatever. I don't buy into that."

Seattle SuperSonics: You win some, you lose some, which is us just fine with the Sonics. "We wanted to be somewhere around .500," said Sonics general manager Rick Sund in the Seattle Times. "What's kind of surprising to (Nate) and I is the road we took to get to .500. We've shown great effort against some superior teams, but in our losses at times we've been lethargic. If we turn that around (the losses), we're right there in the playoffs."

New York Knicks: Isiah Thomas has made yet another move, signing 7-foot-2 center Bruno Sundov to a 10-day contract, reports the New York Daily News. The addition is looked at as insurance in case Thomas decides to trade another Knick big man in the near future such as Clarence Weatherspoon or Michael Doleac. Rumors persist that Thomas is after Blazer forward Rasheed Wallace.

Dallas Mavericks: Winning five games in a row is nice for Dallas, but it certainly isn't Detroit. "We're not satisfied with five wins," forward Danny Fortson said the Dallas Morning News. "We'll be happy once we get to 10 wins in a row, like the Pistons." And Fortson believes the team hasn't even begun to peak yet. "Oh, yeah. Not even close," Fortson said. "We're just starting to finally close games as a unit. Mike and Steve and Dirk have nothing to prove because they won games last year on the road. Those last road games were impressive because we finally closed out at the end."

01-22-2004, 12:54 PM
The addition is looked at as insurance in case Thomas decides to trade another Knick big man in the near future such as Clarence Weatherspoon or Michael Doleac. Rumors persist that Thomas is after Blazer forward Rasheed Wallace

Does the Insider not know that Weatherspoon was traded several weeks ago to Houston?

01-22-2004, 12:58 PM
thebac, these Insider posts are most welcome. Keep them coming.

MIles epitomizes what most critics say is wrong with the U.S. basketball player. All-dunks and no shooters. Thats what precipitated the scouts to look outside of the U.S. for players to draft. Miles can still be a good NBA player if he works hard at his shot, but how can you instill hardwork in someone who doesn't want to do it?

Lonely PSU Mavs Fan
01-23-2004, 10:33 AM
Miles is already getting paid millions of dollars, there is not much else to motivate him. Although i honestly believe that it should not be that hard to get a good jump shot with enough work and the right trainer.

PS thebac, your posts are greatly appreciated, i look for them everyday.

01-23-2004, 12:02 PM
Can Miles get the Blazers hopping?

Depends on if he brings his stash with him. i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif