SALT LAKE CITY — For seven seasons, C.J. Miles was a youthful free spirit as a member of the Utah Jazz, a 6-foot-6 swingman for whom the franchise held such high hopes for and one whom Jazz fans readily embraced.
He was such a likable, ever-exuberant guy with a big, broad smile, a player who continually tantalized fans with his promising talent and tortured them with his erratic, unpredictable performances.
Tonight, Miles will again take the floor at EnergySolutions Arena. But, for the first time in his eight-year NBA career, he'll do so as the "enemy" — a member of the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.
Miles was a guy the Jazz thought so much of that they drafted him out of high school back in 2005, making him at age 18 the youngest Jazzman in franchise history. The Jazz valued him enough that, in 2008, Utah matched a four-year, $14.8 million offer sheet that Miles, then a restricted free agent, had signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, thus keeping him in Utah.
He's a guy who once poured in 40 points in a 2011 game against Minnesota. He was also the guy who inspired this classic quote from former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who grew weary of Miles' on again, off again outings: "We can't put diapers on him one night and a jockstrap the next night."
Then last May at locker-cleanout day, following Utah's four-game playoff sweep at the hands of San Antonio, Miles — who missed the latter part of the season with a calf injury and did not play at all in Utah's postseason series — complained openly to the media. He wasn't sure what his role here was any more and cited what he considered a severe lack of communication from the Jazz coaching staff.
Sure enough, when Miles' contract with the Jazz expired at the end of last season, the C.J.-Jazz marriage was officially over. The divorce became final when he became a free agent and subsequently signed with the Cavs in August.
But while the love affair didn't last, Utah's coaches and players still have fond memories and plenty of respect for Miles, that fun-loving young man who spent his formative NBA years with the Jazz organization.
"When we drafted him, he was an 18-year-old young fella when he came here," Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We learned a lot from him. I thought he had a great seven years here with us, just getting better.
"I thought he was good for the community, and he's a really nice guy. He worked hard to get better every year, and we wish him well. He's not one of our guys any more, but he'll always be a part of the Jazz family."
Earlier this month, Utah faced another former Jazz player, point guard Devin Harris, who was traded away to Atlanta during the offseason. Harris came back to haunt the Jazz in their meeting last week, scoring a season-high 24 points in the Hawks' come-from-behind victory.
Corbin said that's typical of all athletes — they always want to do well against their former team. The Jazz coach certainly knows, having spent time with nine different NBA teams during his own playing days.
"That's anybody," he said. "When you go back to play (against) the team that you played for you want to show that you deserved to stay or they made a mistake or whatever that is. You just get energized for that game and sometimes you press too much, but usually you have a lot of energy to perform.
"Yeah, I've done it a few times," Corbin laughed. "You want to show that you can play, first of all, and that if anybody made a mistake, it wasn't you that made a mistake, it was that they made a mistake not letting me be here anymore. A trade happened because a trade happened, but you want to put your best foot forward.
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