I got to admit, when it comes to compelling nights to be on social media, following an unfolding story simultaneously on television and Twitter, I did not see this one coming. How could I? How could any of us? I mean, how often does an NBA player back out of his deal during the ill-conceived moratorium period baked into the NBA's free agency system?
For those of you whose familiarity with how the NBA's offseason truly works is confined to the last 12 hours, the way the NBA does things is that deals can officially be negotiated between free agents and teams beginning July 1; however, the paper cannot be signed until July 9. This moratorium period of nine days exists so that the NBA can get its house in order financially, count up all the money from the previous fiscal year, and establish thresholds for the salary cap and luxury tax on players' salaries.
The understood modus operandi between players and teams is that once they agree to a deal during the July 1 through July 9 period, they are generally treated like ironclad contracts. Off the top of my head, the only player I can recall reneging on a deal made during the moratorium period was Hedo Turkoglu backing out of his Portland deal a few years ago and signing with Toronto. It's the only instance of a player using this "verbal deal only" window to his advantage that I can recall where so much money was at stake. (NOTE: Immediately after he signed in Toronto, Turkoglu's game quit on him, and he's been a salary dump in deals pretty much since then. Karma, I suppose.)
Yesterday afternoon, news broke that DeAndre Jordan was having cold feet on a four-year, $80 million deal he'd agreed to with the Dallas Mavericks on July 3. Honestly, it's justifiable for him to feel that way, insomuch as his former team (the Clippers) were a better team than Dallas and could offer more guaranteed money. So ultimately, the night ended with Jordan backing out of his deal with the Mavericks, re-upping with the Clippers (4 years, $88 million) and leaving the Mavericks in a precarious lurch in which they're not "top of the draft lottery" bad and not "playoff" good. (From 2010 through 2013, we called that place "Houston.")
But the story is not that simple. Along the way, the Clippers flew pretty much everyone short of Billy Crystal to Houston to make sure that Jordan signed his deal at 11:01 p.m. Central Time last night. DeAndre Jordan had to be treated like a nine-year-old during this process yesterday, because he pretty much handled his business like a nine-year-old. Just ask Mark Cuban, who Jordan, as of this typing, still hasn't spoken with since Tuesday.
There were not many winners yesterday. The entire NBA system of free agency was a huge loser, but let's try and find four of each — winners and losers — so that at least I can keep my brand working here….
4. Social media
Sometimes events come along that are just tailor made for 2015. Last night was one of them. Twitter last night was far more entertaining than any HBO comedy special, in large part because the topic was so utterly ridiculous. Honestly, think about it — a grown man, who large corporations were fighting over, sequestered himself in his house and tried to just avoid the company he'd agreed to an $80 million deal with, hoping they'd go away like a Jehovah's witness. Like, DeAndre just didn't answer the phone. Screened his calls. Ignored texts. Let me repeat — DeAndre Jordan is a 26 year old man. With houses. And investments. And he sat there and played Call of Duty and Hearts with his boys while the phone rang. And his former/now-current-again employer wouldn't leave his house because they were a) afraid that Dallas would show up at his house and b) afraid that Jordan would change his mind again if they didn't stay there. Honestly, the whole thing was such a clown show, that you had to ignore the billion dollar corporate ramifications, and just laugh at the silliness. So that's what we did….
3. Party games
After the possession arrow was clearly pointed in the Clippers direction, along came these tweets from Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, two of the more "plugged in" sources for this type of news:
(NOTE: There's an 85 percent chance that Woj was the dealer for their game of Texas Hold Em, that's how entrenched that guy is.)
2. Brotherly love
The most ridiculous moments of this whole saga, not surprisingly, came when ESPN's resident mouth-breathing clown, Chris Broussard, tried to weigh in with "insider" nuggets of his own, which when you line him up next to pros like Wojnarowski, Shelburne and Marc Stein is like plunking a Kardashian down into the middle of a spelling bee. If last night were a dunk contest of idiotic misinformation, here was Broussard's 360 degree tomahawk...
Almost immediately, Brian Cuban came to his brother's defense...
And then this morning, Mark Cuban brought his own set of nukes….
I think Bill Simmons put it best this morning...
1. Caller ID
Seriously, think about it — at some point yesterday, the phone in Jordan's house rang, and DeAndre Jordan likely turned to Blake Griffin in the middle of a game of Madden and this happened...
DJ: "What area code, bro?"
DJ: "Ah, let that shit go to voicemail…."
Am I right? Costanza would be proud….
4. Chandler Parsons, master salesman
Is there a more overblown, annoying storyline in NBA free agency than Chandler Parsons's impact as some sort of John Calipari/Nick Saban recruiting love child? If part of the reason that Cuban overpaid Parsons $16 million a year was his understanding that he would somehow assemble a team of NBA All-Stars in Dallas, then Cuban kind of deserves at least part of whatever he gets. Parsons seems like a great guy, and a lot of fun to hang out with, especially if the "waffle run off" of girls he doesn't bring home are interested in your type. But right now, all he is is a good guy and a decent basketball player a couple of months removed from microfracture surgery. Good luck recruiting to Dallas now.
3. Dirk Nowitzki
Prior to last season, Dirk signed a three-year, $25 million deal, which was way below his market considering there were teams (including the Rockets) that were reportedly ready to pay him on a max deal. He did this in order to allow Dallas to build a contender around him in his waning years, an approach mirrored by Tim Duncan in San Antonio in his twilight years. It's worked for Duncan. San Antonio is a favorite to win the whole thing from now until Duncan is about 45 years old. Dirk bet on the wrong horse. If the Mavs go into tank mode, which would have to include moving Dirk, how great would it be if Daryl Morey wound up with him at about half what it would have cost on a max deal?
2. Kobe Bryant
If you're wondering how much immunity five NBA title rings gets you, here is Kobe pushing every boundary….
1. Mark Cuban
How fortunate is Cuban that the Mavericks were able to overcome the Heat in 2011 for that title? If his franchise didn't have a title yet, with the window slamming shut last night, what is his legacy as an owner to this point? Great businessman, shoddy basketball guy? It's a fascinating "what if" — what if Dallas doesn't respond to this Wade/James semi-taunt with a 22-5 run to win Game 2 of the 2011 Finals?
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Four years later, that was the most important seven minutes of basketball in Dirk's and Cuban's lives. For now, though, we are left to hope that one of you out there can shop Cuban's face onto Gary, DeAndre's face onto Karen, and Blake's face onto Rick….
Dallas, you did your best…..I guess your best wasn't good enough.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.