The DeAndre Jordan Situation Showcases A Problem With NBA Free Agency (Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, LA Clippers)


As of 72 hours ago, DeAndre Jordan had a verbal agreement with the Dallas Mavericks to become the new center of one of the NBA’s premier franchises.

With a high-profile owner in Mark Cuban, future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki and a would-be tandem with Chandler Parsons to round out what would have been a dangerous core and one of the premier frount-courts in all of basketball, the future was seemingly bright. Forget the fact JJ Barea was going to be the starting point guard, the Mavs were going to be scary. It had become common knowledge around basketball insiders that this move, a purported $80 million dollar deal, would have made DeAndre Jordan the cornerstone of the organization going forward. The Mavericks were committing to building around Jordan for the foreseeable future.

A funny thing happened on the way to signing that contract, however. DeAndre Jordan changed his mind.

The NBA has a league-wide moratorium on all deals until the official start of business. It so happens that the moratorium would end at midnight on July 8th, with players officially able to sign the deals they have negotiated during the 8-day moratorium period as early as 12:01AM on July 9th. In a perfect world, people like DeAndre Jordan would follow those conventions and nobody would make waves. Generally, most people do and you never have an issue arise. For the most part, a deal verbally agreed to is a deal that is going to be signed.

Still, the moratorium exists and one aspect of such a moratorium; even if it’s one that nobody wants to spotlight, is the fact that you haven’t really signed until the ink is dry on the actual sheet. It’s Legal Process 101, obvious to everyone, but it’s something that people tend to forget during the 8 days everyone spends negotiating. The fact it hasn’t happened before is actually most surprising, but here we are. DeAndre Jordan may be staying a Los Angeles Clipper after agreeing to a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal.

Now, I won’t get into the fact that Jordan went back on his word, because ultimately that is what happened. It says something about his character as a person and is a decision that leads itself to criticism. However, it is the young man’s prerogative. He has the right to negotiate the contract with whom he wants and go where he wants.

The problem going forward is that this whole nudge-nudge, wink-wink idea of a moratorium has gotten to a point now where it’s become a farce. You supposedly can’t do business during the 8 day period, but teams are still actively recruiting and trying to sign stars during that period. All your deals are being made during those days, and the idea of a waiting period is more detrimental than anything. Had there not been the waiting period, DeAndre Jordan would have been a Mavs player and there would have been not turn back, legally.

Now? The league has egg on its face because a marquee franchise basically got shafted due to legalities and technicalities. Don’t get it twisted either, Mark Cuban is going to have a field day with this and if he misses out on Jordan, he will have a lot to say about Jordan and the league at large. Moreover, the Clippers, who have been committing egregious errors all off-season are getting a undeserved do-over after basically allowing one of their star players to walk out the door. It’s unfortunate, it’s sad and the only reason the Clippers are even getting another chance to whine and dine Jordan as this moratorium ends is because Steve Ballmer has the cap-room to go the five year max and he’s the only one who can do it and provide DeAndre with upwards of $100 million. Add that to the fact the Mavs couldn’t officially sign him until 12:01AM July 9th, and it gave the Clippers an unfair advantage going forward.

I’ll put it to you this way: If you were the Clippers and you knew, openly, that your star center was going to get at best $80 million the open market, and that you could come back into conversations at any point after that because there’s no rules against it, would you entertain the scenario? Of course you would. You would do it because another team just established your market for you.

I can’t blame the Clippers for doing what they’re doing. The Mavs established the market and showed Ballmer and crew what it would take for them to get DeAndre back and what kind of terms he would accept. Knowing that, the Clippers pulled out all the stops and sent the brigade of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Doc Rivers and Ballmer himself to Texas to finalize everything and bring DeAndre back home with a Max Contract because that’s what it’s going to take.

Am I a fan of the action? Not at all. Being realistic however, I can’t blame either Jordan for potentially taking more money at his athletic peak or the Clippers for trying to get back into the conversation knowing the market now and knowing that they could afford what was a key part of their team without severely overpaying. Comparatively, $100 million plus with the extra years doesn’t look nearly as bad when the Mavs were offering $80 million over less time.

Still, you would hope that a player would understand the spirit of the law and the spirit of the game. Moreover, you would hope that a player would be able to keep his word as a man. Forget basketball for a minute, when you grow up as a young man one of the first thing you’re taught, Henry Hill style is to never rat on your friends and to always be a man of your word. Seemingly, DeAndre Jordan is neither, but money talks.

Former Brooklyn Nets executive Bobby Marks said it best when he said, “I understand the Clippers are in a bad spot, but DeAndre Jordan made his choice, pick up the pieces and move on. Also, like baseball there are unwritten rules and this is a big violation of it. Once you commmit to a team, move on.”

The problem with that is that legally, they don’t have to. The NBA has left an exploitable loophole there and DeAndre Jordan is only the first to exploit it. Unless it’s fixed and the loophole closed, we are going to continue to see this as time progresses. You’re going to continue to see it because you are giving more time for players to negotiate as they have every right to do and you are giving teams more room to negotiate as purported deals leak and markets are newly created when they weren’t present as soon as 24 hours ago.

Still can you blame the player? Can you even blame the organization for acting if it’s allowed to do so legally and within the NBA rules?

The only people at fault for the embarrassment and surreal nature of this whole situation is the NBA at-large. If they want to get it right, they’ll have to fix the moratorium going forward.

Long after DeAndre Jordan is a Clipper again.

Long after DeAndre Jordan fails to ever wear a Dallas Mavericks jersey.

A jersey he had already agreed to wear.

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