After a whirlwind of events that caused a ripple through two organizations, DeAndre Jordan reneged on his verbal committment to join the Dallas Mavericks hours before he was set to sign his contract. Like a nervous groom just before his wedding day, Jordan’s cold feet caused a chain reaction. It was euphoria for the Clippers whose season without Jordan was dead on arrival, and anger in the Mark Cuban camp, and embarrssment to the NBA.
Jordan’s insecurity and its ramifications became so public the league was tainted by default. The questions were obvious: what kind of league allows a player to make a verbal commitment and then renege?
At the end of the day, everyone lost. The Mavericks were the biggest losers. Unappealing as their choices are, they can either grab crumbs or tank this season goodbye. The Clippers got Jordan back but their incompetence was on display. Clueless about their own player’s needs and desires, they should have wrapped this up last week but didn’t. The NBA lost because it seems as if fairness is out the window. When doesn’t your word count for something?
According to several sources close to Jordan, he began doubting his decision over the weekend. It must be pointed out that it was Jordan who said he wanted a) to be the center of the offense, and, b) more input in off court strategies such as marketing, and, c) a change of scenery, as Chris Paul had worn on his nerves. Obviously Jordan was unfamiliar with the adage: be careful what you ask for.
There was a sense that Chris Paul knew Jordan wasn’t going to ever leave. He didn’t bother to leave Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and the tropical Bahamas weather to hightail it to the Clippers pitch meeting. Paul was aware, as was everyone else, as was Jordan (when he came to his senses at the 11th hour), that DeAndre’s career was what it was because of Chris Paul and that to separate the man from the behavior was the mature thing to do. Jordan had his max deal because of Chris Paul.
The Mavericks had huge issues they just couldn’t overcome. They didn’t have a point guard and the prospect of bringing in a B level guard to run the show like Jeremy Lin didn’t create confidence that Jordan could replicate in Dallas what he achieved in Los Angeles. Jordan’s great at lobs and dunks and alley-oops. He’s terrrible at the free throw line. He could possibly add a consistent jump hook as a weapon but that’s about it. He’s not an offensive player, he can’t create on his own and to do so and fail in Dallas when he begged to be the star would expose Jordan to something he’d never, ever had in his career: heavy handed media criticism. Add to that, the chances of the Mavericks getting a top 4 seed without a point guard, in the guard dominant Western Conference, was going to be an uphill climb.
Jordan recognized the truth of the situation a little too late but its hard to blame him in all of this even in the midst of his gross insecurity. The Clippers deserve all of the blame, particularly Doc Rivers whose identity has always been father, friend, coach, teacher, priest, confidant. Clearly, Jordan really wanted to return to the Clippers, he just wanted a lot of love in the process. Once again, Doc Rivers bungled the initial job of reeling him in.
As for Mark Cuban, he’s the sympathetic figure here. He did all the right things and played by the rules the way he was supposed to and he got screwed only because he recruited the wrong player. There is no way to describe what a devastating blow this is for Cuban and the franchise with very little options available. The Mavs “encouraged” Monta Ellis to opt-out and go elsewhere, threatening they were going to trade him. They let Tyson Chandler walk. Now they are holding the bag with nothing to show for it, not even the promise of young talent to make those awful nights bearable.
Cuban can try to talk Larry Bird out of his deal with the Lakers and steal Roy Hibbert the same way the Clippers stole Jordan but other than that it’s pretty much a wrap for this season, one in which Cuban will have to watch DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers prosper, probably as another 4 or 5 seed in the Western Conference.
In hindsight, Cuban shouldn’t have been very surprised. This is the same player that when he walks up to the free throw line he looks like he has seen a ghost. Decisiveness and DeAndre Jordan don’t belong in the same sentence.
photo via flickr