Call me a cynic but I’m thinking the free agency LeBron James drama is much ado about nothing and that James is going to be where James was last year, in Cleveland. Ditto Paul George. Too nice to breakup with Russell Westbrook and wanting all the money he could get. So OKC is his place of employment for the next five years. Magic Johnson with nothing but a Julius Randle contract and his young team another year older is what is likely, probable, and what I am betting on . What if all the Lakers do is ship out Lonzo and picks for Kemba Walker? What if the biggest story of free agency is DeAndre Jordan going to Dallas and the Clippers getting whatever crumbs the Mavs throw into the Pacific Ocean that wind up on the Southern California shore?
The only definitive probable is DeAndre Jordan has played his last game as a Clipper. Jordan is a great defender and rim protector, a team player, silly and fun loving, seven feet tall, a Texan and second round pick who made the most of his career. Well, not exactly. It was Doc Rivers who came to Los Angeles and pulled DeAndre aside and said he could be the second coming of Kevin Garnett lite if he applied himself, was serious, stopped trying to be a scorer and focused on what his talent was. Dunks. Defense. Pick and roll. Guarding several positions. Blocking shots. Doc challenged DeAndre to have an edge and to think defense. Doc can spin a story. Defense at the center position is just as important as offense at the guard position. Doc’s personality won DeAndre over and he was an All-Star, had his moments in the playoffs. His free agency that begins July 1st, DeAndre has earned. But of course, no one forgets what happened the last time he was a free agent. DeAndre loves him some drama.
Before the last free agency (2015), there was another last free agency (2011). DeAndre was a restricted free agent and the Warriors wanted him bad, like we’ll overpay him bad. They offered him a four year deal, $42,7 million. The Warriors had Steph Curry and Klay Thompson was a rookie but they were very young and no Draymond Green yet. At 7-1 and a terrific athlete who could protect the rim, run the floor and finish, DeAndre was a nice compliment to the Dubs guard trio which still included Monta Ellis. But the Clippers matched the offer and DeAndre went back to Los Angeles and the Warriors executed plan B and traded Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, another seven footer but no DeAndre Jordan.
Then when he was an unrestricted free agent, Jordan made a verbal commitment to the Mavericks and was talked out of it as his teammates, including Chris Paul who he was trying to escape, kept him hostage while they convinced him to not go, that they needed him. That was 2015. DeAndre would return to Los Angeles, go back on his word to Mark Cuban and then as a present, a year later, have to endure the humiliating 3-1 collapse to the Houston Rockets, losing a game 7 in his hometown of Houston.
The Clippers never survived that loss that would have put them in their first Western Conference Finals. Yes, DeAndre survived the end of Donald Sterling but as racist and unhinged as Sterling was he didn’t affect wins and losses. That Houston fall off a cliff would haunt the Clippers forever.
The Clippers acquired Marcin Gortat in a trade where Doc let his son go east. The Clippers organization seems primed to trade Jordan away. If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, Jordan is going to opt-in ala Chris Paul 2017 and be traded to Dallas who he rejected three years ago. No hard feelings on the Dallas side of things. They have scorers in Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. They added Luka Doncic who has a definite upside but how much? They just need a big man so they can erase the Nerlens Noel experiment headache from their memory.
Only in the NBA could a player like DeAndre who can’t score 20 points in back to back games upstage LeBron James and Paul George. He may do in one day what he has never done in his NBA career. His may be the story the NBA is talking about. He may be the most important signing of the summer. Even as it lacks a whole lot of glamour and panache, DeAndre may save the media from utter boredom when nothing major with LeBron, the Lakers, Paul George happens to intersect the three as a superteam. DeAndre may be changing addresses.
It’s not nothing. But it’s not everything either.