Let’s just say that Mark Cuban had his day ruined in a very ugly and brutal way and leave it at that.
But, this got me to thinking, “What are the ways we could really manipulate free agency?” I mean, effectively, Cuban got Lucy’d, but it probably wasn’t on purpose.
So here are some “moves” that teams and players could use to manipulate the system to their advantage.
Punk Your Rival
Teams can punk their rivals. With Jordan, it seemed like an honest, last minute change of heart. He certainly could’ve handled the situation better. For instance, answering his phone like a grown man instead of cowering inside like a little girl would’ve been the adult thing to do.
But what if a player and team conspired to do that on purpose? What if they collaborated to sabotage a rival’s offseason?
Both teams would be screwed like a freshly changed light bulb. The Trail Blazers would actually climb into a top four seed in the process.
Could we see teams literally sending out their best players to sabotage other team’s free agency?
Punk Your Player
Of course, there could be the reverse punkery at play, too. And I doubt the Players Association would be quite as willing to back this one up.
A team could come to an agreement with a player for the max, then wait for the moratorium to near its end, and say, “Hey, you know what? If you take a few million less, we can sign so-and-so and be more competitive.”
By then, other teams who can afford to give said player the max would already have all their space all used up, and the free agent in question wouldn’t have any bargaining power.
Effectively, the new team could coerce the player into taking millions less than agreed to. And what’s his alternative? Take the minimum to go play somewhere else? Not play at all?
In the few instances where a mind has been changed, it’s always been the player changing it. But if it were the team? I bet we’d be hearing from Michele Roberts (who has been quiet on the Jordan change of heart) then.
Punk it Forward
I imagine there’s a possibility of a conversation that happened between Phil Jackson and Robin Lopez yesterday that went something like this.
Phil: Hey Robin, let’s go on a fishing trip. No phones, no tablets. No radios. Just you, me, a few cold beers, the boat and the fish.
Robin: Can we go mascot hunting instead?
One thing that could easily happen is a team that’s been punked rolls the punk onto the next team down. One thing unique about this mind-reversal, as opposed to Carlos Boozer or Hedo Turkoglu backing down on prior commitments is that this one was the second “domino.”
There’s a kind of pecking order to free agency. The best player picks their team, then the second-best and so on.
So what if Cuban gets Lopez. What does Jackson do then? Does he go after the next domino after that? How many dominoes topple before it’s done?
Another thing that could happen is teams could pile up on victims of the noncommittals.
Here’s another scenario. With Jordan deciding to go back Los Angeles, let’s say the Sacramento Kings tell Rajon Rondo, “A funny thing happened on the way to the moratorium” and pulled their offer to Rondo, then went back to Matthews with the same larger offer they initialy made.
And they told him, “Look you can suck and get less money, or you can suck and get more money on a team that’s further along in the rebuilding process. Which do you prefer?”
Or if Jordan hadn’t changed his mind and the Mavericks reverse-punked the Clippers, recruiting away Paul Pierce by convincing him that without Jordan, the Clippers had no shot at a title.
Piling up on teams who had taken hits would be easy as players often make decisions based on the competitiveness of teams.
My favorite thing would be if a group of superstars, all with huge money already in the bank, decided to collectively punk the world. Say, for the sake of giggles, the best at each of the five positions.
Each would “agree” to go to a different team on max deals. Then at the last second, all of them would pull out and collectively, they’d all decide to go play for the minimum for some really horrible team like the Philadelphia 76ers or a young team ready to blow up like the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Can you imagine all the proverbial feces hitting the fan as all these teams with max space vie to buy the services of everyone else. Players would be changing their minds everywhere. The chaos would be masterful.
Of course, the only benefit to doing that would be a hearty belly laugh. But it would totally be worth it.