He's coming back.
Miles, 28, is convinced more than ever that he can make a successful return to the NBA this season, silencing the doctors, the critics and the doubters who wrote him off long ago and reviving a once-promising but disappointing career.
"This is the best I've felt in five years,'' Miles said in an interview with FanHouse recently. "Even through all the rust, you can see, I still have my skills. And because I was forced to develop other parts of my game, I might be better than I ever was.''
Miles, once the No. 3 pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2000 NBA Draft, has played just 34 games in the last four years, stopped by a supposedly career-ending knee injury, then slapped with a substance-abuse suspension and a well-earned reputation as a problem child.
Miles spent much of this month working out with the Charlotte Bobcats summer league team, raising the interest of coach Larry Brown, whose history of success with otherwise-difficult veteran players fits him perfectly.
"He doesn't have the spring in his legs that he had 7-8 years ago, but nobody does,'' said Bobcats assistant coach Dave Hanners, who ran the summer league workouts with Miles. "He still has that great feel for the game. He knows how things will unfold before they do. That's special. And he still has a strong desire to play.''
The Bobcats have made him no promises, waiting to gauge their other roster moves and to see how serious Miles is before offering an invite to their training camp this fall. In the past, Brown has filled his bench with seasoned veterans like Miles, using players like Theo Ratliff and Larry Hughes last season. And he has long admired Miles' multi-dimensional style, a long-armed player who can pass, shoot and drive.
"I've been hurt for such a long, long time that people forgot who you are, what you can do,'' Miles said. "If people see me, I think they'll like me. My body feels great, and if it holds up, I can play with the elite like I used to. And I'm excited about the possibilities now.''
Miles, a 6-9, 230-pound forward, came into the league with wondrous and versatile athletic skills, the first player in league history to come directly from high school and receive All-Rookie, First-Team honors.
Yet he didn't progress like many thought he should. He was traded to Cleveland, then traded to Portland, where he clashed with coach Maurice Cheeks and then blew out his knee late in the 2005-06 season, later requiring microfracture surgery that was deemed career-ending. Before the injury, he was having his finest season, averaging 16.9 points and 5.0 rebounds as a starter.
But after sitting out two seasons, he returned with the Celtics for the start of the 2008-09 season and was waived after the exhibition schedule despite showing positive signs that he could play again.
He touched off a major controversy when the Blazers asked other teams not to sign him, knowing they would lose valuable salary cap room and push them further into the luxury tax if he appeared in 10 or more games for another team.
After the NBA Players Association filed a grievance against the Blazers, Memphis signed him that season, yet the Grizzlies couldn't use him until after a 10-game, drug-abuse suspension. He played reasonably well as a reserve for 34 games. They opted against re-signing him after he was arrested in Illinois on a marijuana possession charge.
He sat out all of last season, continuing his rehab and working quietly on his game. Then he re-emerged this summer in Charlotte.
"I'm not mad at the Blazers or anyone else for the past, but I know I can play again. I've learned a lot about the business of basketball. My son is 2 years old now, and he's never seen me play. I want him to come to an NBA arena to see his father play again,'' Miles said. "I've got a lot of years left, and I want to be part of something again.''
Like everyone else last weekend in Miami, Miles was playing at half speed, except for a few flashes when he wanted to show there was some spring left in his legs. There was his blocked shot against the backboard, a rarity in a charity game, and then his crowd-pleasing dunk at the other end.
"I have nothing guaranteed right now. I'm just thankful for this chance,'' he said. "Sometimes I still have to tell myself to take it slow. But I'm out there now jumping around, and I don't have to worry about my knee anymore. My game is back.''