Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan heads to Dallas Wednesday night for the first time since he reneged on an oral agreement with the Mavericks this summer. A panel of Today’s Fastbreak writers got together to talk about that fateful decision.
Jason Patt: Were you guys initially surprised that DeAndre Jordan agreed to sign with the Mavericks, and would that have made them a contender in the West?
Steve Hunt: No, the running narrative about the Mavs has always been how they have gone after but have never closed the deal with big-name free agents. Past examples of this include Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. But when Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and company lured Chandler Parsons away from Houston last summer, that perception looks to have changed a bit. Sure, some remain adamant that Dallas overpaid for Parsons, but he was nothing short of great up until his knee injury in the playoffs sidelined him.
Cuban, former MVP Dirk Nowitzki, who still remains the face of the franchise, and Parsons made a powerful play for Jordan to come to Big D, a sales pitch that nearly worked. Cuban can offer free agents plenty to entice them to join the Mavs: a championship-caliber coach in Rick Carlisle, who many view as the second-best head coach in the NBA behind only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, outstanding facilities, an owner who will do whatever it takes to put a winning product on the floor, a franchise which has been a perennial playoff team under Carlisle for the most part and a nice place to live.
Signing DJ alone would not have made the Mavs an instant contender in the West, but it would have been a big step in the right direction. Dallas’ decision to not offer Tyson Chandler an extension left a huge void for them in the middle. So far this season, the Mavs have been pretty soft in the middle. Dwight Powell, the lone remnant from the Rajon Rondo trade in the spring, has been a great energy guy and has done some nice things, but is nowhere near ready to be a high-minute center in the NBA.
Jordan would have filled that role quite nicely. But now the Mavs pin their hopes for being stronger inside on the likes of Powell and the injury-prone JaVale McGee, for whom there is not currently a timetable for his Dallas debut. Signing Jordan would have put Dallas in the conversation in the West, but by no means would that move alone have made them an instant contender.
Kelly Scaletta: I was certainly surprised, but more that he was leaving the Clippers than that he was going to the Mavericks. It’s hard to say whether it would have made them contenders because even right now we don’t know who the Mavericks are. I think maybe there was a bigger reaction to the signing than warranted because I’m not sure there is this vast chasm of difference between Tyson Chandler and Jordan. Certainly, Jordan is better at this stage, but I wasn’t thinking last year that if they could get marginally better at the 5 they would have won it all.
That said, Jordan’s going back on his promise really screwed the Mavs because they lost Chandler. I think they would be better positioned if Jordan had never agreed to go there at all. And I think that’s what a lot of national media is missing here. This isn’t just about “having the right to change your mind” because changing your mind screwed another business. And it’s not like the moratorium is something Cuban can just work around. It screwed the Mavs because Jordan was a lead domino who changed his mind after he knocked down all of the other dominoes. That rule has to be changed. It leaves teams too vulnerable.
Jared Mintz: I don’t know that landing DJ would have made the Mavs a contender this year, but I think the point of signing him was less for today and more for the future.
Sure the NBA’s become less of a big man’s league, and not being able to make free throws down the stretch of games only hurts Jordan’s impact on the ever-evolving league, but we’re talking about a big-time defensive anchor in the middle. At just 27 years old, we’ve seen Jordan improve pretty much every facet of his game over the last three or four seasons, and landing a top five center just entering his prime would’ve more than likely helped make Dallas a more attractive free agency destination, something they’ve struggled with in the past as Steve just mentioned.
To answer the first part of this question, yes I was shocked that Jordan initially decided to leave the Clippers. Regardless of the GIF that’s been burned into our memories of Chris Paul screaming at him to get that shot up against Portland last March, Jordan has a GREAT thing in L.A. being the third guy, and this team is as close to being a real deal contender as any non-Warriors team in the West with him. If I was chasing a ring, and money, I think I’d prefer to be next to my best friend Blake Griffin and CP3.
Jason: I agree with the point that getting Jordan was more about the future than today for the Mavericks. They obviously would’ve been better this season, but the idea was building a strong core of Jordan, Parsons and Wes Matthews and going from there to transition to the post-Dirk era. I don’t think they would’ve been good enough to win the West or anything, but add another big piece or a few more key pieces over the next year or so, and then you may really have had something.
Kelly, you mentioned the moratorium. Is that something that really should be looked at? I know why the league does it, but it seems like some changes could be made so there’s not so much time in between agreeing to deals and then actually signing.
Kelly: I think there should be something. One possibility is that once a team announces they’re going somewhere, all other teams are barred from speaking to him. The potential for abuse in the present system is just too great. What’s to stop a team from pulling a “DeAndre” on purpose?
Jared: Right, it’s hard to pinpoint what could or should be done, but this could become more of a prevalent issue moving forward now that other free agents have seen Jordan do it. Same token, I don’t think it’s crazy to think DJ had a right to do it, but also acknowledge that he set the Mavericks back by doing so. Maybe the answer is cutting out the moratorium period entirely and just allowing teams to sign free agents as of July 1.
Jason: If anything, maybe they make the moratorium shorter? Just seems like over a week is ridiculous. I feel like the NBA could figure out a way to get all their auditing done in time if they really had to.
Anyway, let’s go back to that fateful day when that first report of Jordan possibly changing his mind came across the wire from Marc Stein. When it first happened, it seemed like Doc and the Clippers were doing something shady. And then everything got crazy from there. Do you remember what you were doing and your initial reaction to this when it started? And were you glued to the action as much as I was?
Jared: That day was easily a top three to five AT WORST day on Twitter. I was at my full-time job being as unproductive as I’ve ever been, waiting for the next emoji laced tweet to drop. I don’t remember if that was the same day, or the day after the banana boat crew posted their picture, but Basketball Twitter was just on fire for what seemed like a 48-hour window or so.
Think about it: we went from the banana boat, to news that Jordan was reconsidering, to players tweeting different transportation emojis, to Paul Pierce tweeting a screenshot of an emoji (!), to Jordan being held hostage in his own home by Clippers teammates old and new. Memes were at an all-time high, and I can’t wait for the 30-for-30 AND Jonathan Abrams oral history to drop recapping the day’s events. It gives me joy just thinking about it.
Jason: My God it was so amazing. When the news first broke, I could only laugh heartily at the desperation of Doc. Then it just took off in so many different directions. The emoji wars. The random bits of news being leaked out that got more and more ridiculous. The fake Blake Griffin chair picture. The Chris Broussard nonsense about Mark Cuban madly driving around town trying to reach DeAndre. As poorly as Jordan handled he situation, it sure made for one hell of a time on social media.
Jared: I forgot about Broussard! Just another chapter in the “Book of Sources” Deadspin will hopefully publish some day.
Jason: The funniest thing about that Broussard incident is that I’m pretty sure he first tweeted the wrong city that Cuban was allegedly driving around in. Classic.
Kelly: I remember vividly sitting at my computer, seeing the news, and thinking, “I must write a parody on this.” And then did. It was so weird, funny and oddly horrific all at the same time. And Broussard is still living on the one story he scooped (off the record).
Jason: Now as fun as it was for all of us, we can all agree that Jordan didn’t handle this correctly, yes? Doc Rivers can yammer on all he wants about how Jordan didn’t owe Cuban anything, but a simple phone call explaining the decision would’ve been the way to go. It may have robbed us of a day of fun, but that would’ve been the ethical thing to do.
Kelly: Emphatically. I felt like the whole thing was childish, which is why I found it ironic that the defense was “He’s a grown man, he can make his decisions.” Then act like a grown man. Call. Apologize to the man who might have just lost a hundred million dollars because you have a right to change your mind. I thought Jordan acted like a coward and I lost all respect for him. Is that harsh?
Jared: Yeah this is the biggest no-brainer, especially once it became national news that Jordan was hanging out with his former teammates. Like Kelly said, DJ was entitled to make whatever decision he wanted to, but he handled it with very little professionalism. I understand why a lot of people don’t care for Cuban, and even why basketball fans don’t care if a player makes their agent look bad, but this was a bad look for Jordan too at the end of the day. It’s clearly not going to have an effect on his money or his playing career, but this isn’t close to the story it is if he was even remotely straightforward with Cuban.
Jason: Agreed on all counts. The big issue wasn’t Jordan going back on his initial agreement. While that was still kind of crappy in itself considering what was at stake, it was a huge decision and he had every right to change his mind. But letting it all play out like it did was immature and silly. Hopefully he’s learned.
In the aftermath of it all, Cuban and Doc have gotten into quite the petty war of words over this situation. Do you think it’s time for them to shut up? Or are you rooting for the venom to continue forever?
Jared: I find both to be relatively annoying/self-serving, so I’m rooting for them to shut up always. This is also kind of a weird spot, as if Dallas had a little bit better of a team I’d be rooting for this rivalry to take of. Unfortunately they don’t, and as much as I want more NBA rivalries, the Clippers already have more than enough teams/players/fans that dislike them, so I don’t think it’s imperative that it continues. With that said, there isn’t a chance in hell that the Mavericks’ fan base will forget about this any time soon, so he better not airball a free throw or get dunked on tonight.
Jason: Is there anybody on the Mavericks who’s even a dunk-on-DeAndre threat? Too bad JAVALE MCGEE isn’t healthy.
Kelly: Not sure how many guys are a dunk on anyone threat.
Jason: Fair enough. Anyway, this should be a fun one tonight. I’m sure Dallas will bring the venom hard. Hopefully the Mavericks can compete.