Another player left the Dallas Mavericks high and dry. Reneged on his word and split for greener pastures. Damned this doomed franchise to mediocrity on a whim, typifying modern NBA hubris.
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Nah. Not really.
Journeyman swingman Richard Jefferson was expected to sign with the Mavs after a solid season with the team in 2014-15, but after DeAndre Jordan went back on his verbal commitment to sign with Dallas earlier in July, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told Jefferson that he wouldn’t hold it against him if he decided to look for gigs elsewhere.
Cleveland, as is usually the case, is “elsewhere.” From ESPN’s Marc Stein:
When reached Tuesday, however, Cuban said that he actually spoke to Jefferson about his change of heart and was not blindsided by the decision as Dallas was in Jordan's case.
"He called and talked to me," Cuban told ESPN. "RJ said he had an opportunity with an Eastern Conference team. He said he would honor what he [originally agreed to with the Mavs] but thought the other was a better fit. I told him I was OK with it and understood."
Ah. So he called Mark Cuban and explained a reasonable change of heart away. Cuban might be the guy from the ‘Entourage’ movie, but even he can understand a move like this. The Cavs may have been a couple of injuries away from a title just last month, and the Mavericks (even had DeAndre Jordan stayed on board) are just another good team from the killer Western Conference.
This is where Jordan screwed up. DeAndre was absolutely correct in his estimation that the Los Angeles Clippers were the better basketball option for him, and the NBA’s moratorium period doesn’t bind players to verbal free agent agreements. He was just fine to go back to the Clippers even after outwardly committing to the Mavericks. It’s OK to have a change of heart.
It’s not OK to deny Cuban and the Mavericks, after they fixed up their entire offseason around the idea that DeAndre was going to be the Big Free Agent Pull, so much as a phone call. Cuban didn’t even need a big explanation why, because the man is no dummy: DeAndre Jordan has only played for the Los Angeles Clippers, he can make more pre-tax money with the Clippers, and the Clippers won more games than Cuban’s Mavericks last year. Cuban would have been disappointed after taking part in that phone call, but he would have understood.
Instead, Jordan still hasn’t reached out to Cuban, only offering an embarrassing series of tweets that clearly weren’t penned by him. Just as it was in 2010 with LeBron James, the decision itself wasn’t a miss, but the execution clearly was.
Jefferson played well enough with the Mavericks last season and if his last five seasons are any indication he’ll act as suitable relief alongside James’ Cavaliers in 2015-16. He won’t be winning any games for Cleveland, but at the veteran’s minimum he will be a solid enough pickup to sop up minutes for the Cavaliers. He’ll probably play a slight notch better than Shawn Marion did in his final season with the Cavaliers in 2014-15, another pickup that left Dallas in order to (understandably) chase a ring with the best player in the game.
For Dallas? Rather than casting them as the spurned lovers yet again, understand that this team really doesn’t need Richard Jefferson right now.
The Mavs just committed four years and $70 million (wowser) to Wesley Matthews. Justin Anderson, the team’s sweet-shooting first-round draft pick, looks like a steal at No. 21 overall. Dallas did well to replace Jordan (in a way) with his polar opposite in Zaza Pachulia, at just about no cost. The team is going to attempt to hold serve in the West, and strive for however many wins it takes to sneak into the Western playoff bracket (we’re guessing … 62?).
Nobody’s feelings are hurt, and everyone is getting what they wanted.
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