Not sure if you’ve heard, but free agent center DeAndre Jordan agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks earlier in July, and on Wednesday he decided to go back on that agreement and agree to contract terms with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers, whom Jordan has played for since 2009, then signed the center to a free agent deal once the NBA’s moratorium on actual pen-to-paper free agent signings was lifted early on July 9. The whole affair was documented by tweets.
Let’s bust out some winners and losers behind the whole affair.
No matter what, there are always going to be a contingent of observers, be their numbers big or small, that will always side with the management. DeAndre Jordan was, by NBA law that both owners and players collective bargained and agreed on, doing exactly what any of us would have done in an employment situation – making sure he got it right.
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People are allowed to change their minds, and employees back out of even legal and signed deals all the time. In this instance DeAndre Jordan will be seen as a quitter whose word cannot be trusted, someone who is easily swayed, and unsure of what he wants (which, to some, is a crime for some reason).
As such, even though he’ll be with the better team and make more money, because of those detractors,
Once the carpers go away, once football’s training camp starts up and the attention heads elsewhere, Jordan will come out a winner. He made the right basketball and business decision and could turn into a champion next year. Each Clipper road game in Dallas will be nationally televised, so he’ll have to live through that, and it is possible that the two teams could meet each other in the playoffs. It won’t be totally over come October.
He’ll also have to live with the fact that his decision-making route will likely cause a rule change regarding the NBA’s signing moratorium, something us snarksters will refer to as “the DeAndre Jordan Rule.” He will be booed every time he visits Dallas. Every time a commitment, rather than a signing, is made some jokester will wonder out loud if the player might pull “a DeAndre Jordan.” Blake Griffin’s tweet will remain at the top of his Favstar Pro list for quite a while.
That’s OK. He went about it the wrong way, but DeAndre Jordan made the right move. He went from making a so-so basketball team above average and $80 million to turning a very good basketball team great again, and $87 million.
Chris Paul’s reputation
It’s true that CP3 played a large role in convincing Jordan to return. He and his new pal got to laugh off the reports that he was the driving force that pushed DeAndre into joining a lesser team for lesser money, break a little bread and promise that, “no, we’re cool.” Fine.
Even if both lead the Clippers to a championship in 2015-16, Paul took a hit. Reports of him purposely declining high-fives to Jordan painted Paul as the anti-Steve Nash, and it allowed us to look back at a career rich with furrowed brows, angry glares, and so (too?) much barking. It allowed us to bring up Julius Hodge.
Whether this is fair or not is up to you, but if Paul attempts to change his act next season he could end up taking away some influences that make him so fearsome in the first place. This is a 6-foot-maybe guy that ranks himself with the LeBrons, Wades, and Carmelos of the world, and yet he has to work his magic with a figurative arm tied behind his back in comparison to those lengthy dudes.
If the reports of animosity between the two were overplayed, oh well. If they genuinely are on the same page after Paul flew in for meetings, great. There’s a good chance that absolutely none of this even matters whatever the severity of the rift, if there even was one.
Still, the bottom line is that Paul’s basketball image has been irrevocably altered.
The Los Angeles Clippers
They were done. Centers might be a dying breed, but you can’t go into a season with absolutely none of them on your roster, and talks to acquire Brendan Haywood’s non-guaranteed contract may not have been just to flip that deal for a 7-footer, but to possibly even keep Haywood to play at center should any second deals fall through. The Clippers were about to force the short-armed Blake Griffin, perhaps the worst-suited of all prominent NBA power forwards to play center, to take up spot minutes in the pivot. Season previews were going to list the phrase “Acquisitions: Lance Stephenson,” in that order.
It was not a happy time, and yet for the same reasons the team was staring down the worst offseason of any contender, it’s now back in Happy Land. The Clippers were and remain wafer-thin, so any player loss hits terribly, and Jordan most of all. You might have issues with his free throw shooting or pick and roll defense, but the Clippers rely heavily on him to sop up minutes and fill up that box score.
This doesn’t guarantee a championship, it just guarantees that the Clippers are right back to where they were a month and a half ago, before they completely fell apart against Houston, before they talked themselves into Lance Stephenson, and then lost Jordan. It’s still not an ideal roster, but it’s enough.
Los Angeles Clippers uniforms
You know, some of us can’t see these emojis, guys. Throw us a bone.
Dallas Mavericks, post-championship
This is a sad culmination.
As we’ve written, oh, about six times a season since late 2011, the Mavericks embarked on an intelligent and understandable plan in the wake of its NBA Finals win. That win was the result of the efforts of a fantastic but aging ballclub, and the team needed to restore flexibility to take advantage of Dirk Nowitzki’s remaining all-world years. Four years and $58 million for the uninsurable 29-year old Tyson Chandler sure looked like a heck of a lot of money at the time, and a series of boffo free agents were set to hit the market in the coming years.
In the end, several mercurial talents failed the team’s brain trust of owner Mark Cuban, general manager Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle. Carlisle is rightfully credited for being able to think on the fly with ever-changing rosters, but he’s had two bookend players in Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo that completely quit on him, O.J. Mayo and then Monta Ellis were hit-or-miss, and the Mavs have now been turned down by two rather goofy big men in Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.
That awful mixture of bad luck, bad timing, and unexpected play hasn’t turned Dallas into a laughingstock – they’ve made the playoffs in the killer West in all but one of those post-championship seasons – but it’s kept them from putting together a bonafide contender around Dirk. Despite all the smart planning and bright ideas.
Mind you, brining DeAndre Jordan in wasn’t going to do much of anything. He’s a fine player and in his prime, but the Mavs still had significant holes on its roster. Wesley Matthews is one of the league’s most respected players and he’ll eventually turn into a great spot-up shooter again, but he won’t be as potent a two-way player as he was prior to his Achilles tear, and because of Jordan's move back to Los Angeles his once-reasonable deal (four-years, $54 million) shot up to four years and $70 million. Monta is gone. Raymond Felton is still here.
That core, with DeAndre and a returning J.J. Barea and Charlie Villanueva, may not have been any better than Jordan-less Clippers this season. So they would have added Jordan. So what?
Again, these are not shots at Cuban, Nelson, or Carlisle. They’ve continually done the best they could with what they’ve been given in terms of potential future-Mavs, in this case they went out for the best possible free agent they could get and they got him. Just because DeAndre Jordan wasn’t going to put Dallas over the top, it doesn’t mean the Mavs haven’t been doing the exact right things since Dec. 2011.
It’s just how these things work out sometimes. Sometimes it’s your turn at the buffet after everyone else, and they’re all out of the pot stickers.
Frat boy crap
Seriously, can we stop this?
The NBA’s moratorium process
If you weren’t aware of why it exists, you sure as hell do now.
NBA contracts (with some exceptions for non-guaranteed deals) expire on June 30. This is why, at just after midnight Eastern on July 1 teams allowed to negotiate with NBA players (and to pretend like they haven’t already been making in-roads with potential free agents or extension recipients weeks and months in advance). During the moratorium, the NBA itself audits its massive global business in order to determine how much cash was in the till after the season ended, and where things are going from there.
In the meantime, players can agree to terms with teams, but nothing official is in place until the salary cap is set and the moratorium is lifted. In some NBA summers, the moratorium was even delayed further into July as the league’s green-visor-wearers figured things out. They have a lot of work to do, as evidenced by the fact that the eventual salary cap came in at a not-insignificant $3 million higher than what was projected on the morning of June 30.
This allows for DeAndre Jordan to do what he did on Wednesday legally. And that’s just fine.
All NBA teams, even the Clippers, are going to push for moratorium reform; and a heavy chunk of the fans that follow the NBA (or don’t even) and the writers that cover it are going to agree with them.
What they would be agreeing to is yet another instance of owners getting their way when it comes to limiting player movement, a player’s ability to make his own choices and, dammit, a player’s freedom. This is America, people. Sit up straight and use your turn signals.
Jordan’s image took a hit with all this, deservedly. When you make a commitment, if not a binding commitment, you better have a damn good reason for backing out on your word and hearty handshake. The issue here is that DeAndre Jordan did have damn good reasons – a far better team, a franchise he is familiar with, and more money – for backing out. It was annoying, but it wasn’t unsightly.
Teams are forever going to let great players down, be it on purpose to save money, be it because they’re incompetent, or (in Dallas’ case) because rotten luck has ruined a few offseasons in a row. DeAndre Jordan would then be committing to playing his best years on a so-so team, and should his (rather formidable) agent request a trade at any point during that contract, Jordan would come off as the bad guy. Players always come off as the bad guy in “get me out of here”-situations.
Want to push the agreement period to the date (which, again, has been moved back before in July during some offseasons) when you can sign binding agreements? Fine. Live with the scads of agents, general managers, and coaches that will use all manner of ways to get in touch with free agents. The NBA can’t subpoena a Twitter DM.
(Wait, can you subpoena a DM? Please tell me you can’t. Maybe CyberDust is onto something after all.)
Aghast at the unwritten rules that Jordan and the Clippers broke? Get over yourselves. The more unwritten rules sports leagues ignore the better off they become. Unwritten rules for years have ranged to from the innocuous (like headband placement) to the socially damning (like limiting the number of African-American players on your team).
So the Mavericks hate the Clippers now. So they probably won’t ever trade with each other ever again (have they ever?), and the NBA’s two most blustery owners (in Cuban and Clipper boss Steve Ballmer) will have an uneasy time at league meetings. Again, so what? Just because you want to get haughty and make a point?
DeAndre Jordan’s move is somewhat unprecedented, but that doesn’t mean it will to spark a trend. It was obvious even when he agreed with the Mavs that this was easily the most regrettable move of the offseason so far, and in the end he made the right move and ticked off just one basketball team in 30. The league-wide transaction (and failed transaction) ramifications that emanated from Jordan agreeing with the Mavs ripple out further, but we’re pretty sure Roy Hibbert is going to like it in Los Angeles.
In the end, a grown man decided he wasn’t comfortable with a career and life-altering decision he made, and he decided to renege on a non-binding agreement in order to make what he (and most others) felt was the right choice for his career. Whether your career stretches until your late 60s or (as with NBA players’ cases, if they’re extremely lucky) your late 30s, this is freedom and flexibility that needs to be sustained.
The ability to go back on a verbal agreement, one of possibly three notable one in the 20 years since the NBA’s 1995 collective bargaining agreement, is just fine. Settle down, cable TV.
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