It's natural to be scared of DeAndre Jordan leaving. I am. We all are. But in spite of all the rumors flying around, we actually haven't seen much concrete reason to think that he's more likely to leave than return to the Clippers. Let's take a closer look at what we actually know right now.
Jordan's been vocal about wanting to test free agency for a while now. When Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver talked to him back in January, he had this to say:
SI: This next contract that you sign could carry you until you’re 30. Where do you want your game to be at that point of your career?
DJ: I want to be a better player. I want to be more rounded. Defense and rebounding is something that I’m known for. When you get older, you want to expand your game, become an offensive player and threat for your team.
SI: You were a restricted free agent in 2011. The Warriors made you a four-year offer but the Clippers matched. Does that experience impact your approach to this summer at all?
DJ: This time is different. Last time I was restricted. You sign with somebody and that could or could not be the team you go to. This time it’s your say.
It’s always tricky. Obviously I’ve been here for seven years and I’m used to the Clippers and our team. It’s crazy that I’m the one who has been here the longest. It’s cool to think about. You get used to things. I’m used to Los Angeles. With that being said, I’m not thinking about it too much, Doc has been great, but whenever it comes to that point, I’ll cross that bridge. As of right now, I’m focused on trying to win here, a championship for our team
DJ: I play for a great coach, a great point guard here, a great forward. You definitely look at things like that. The group of guys you have, you want to be able to be around when you’re not at practice and not at the games. You want to be around a lot of guys who have high character and are on the team for the same reasons.
SI: You’re talking a lot about camaraderie. I’m wondering whether it would be hard to picture yourself on a team that is going through a big time rebuilding project. You don't even know who your teammates would be.
DJ: Stability is something that you want in a team and an organization. If there’s no stability, it’s like being on the freeway with no lanes. It’s chaos.
DJ: [Owner] Steve Ballmer, he’s been great. I have faith in Steve and Doc. Whatever we talk about when free agency comes, I feel like it will be good. Hopefully we’ll both do the right thing.
It’s going to be a good summer. It’s going to be fun. I’m not going to be stressing myself out about it. I’m going to see what happens. What happens, happens. I’ll love it wherever I’m at.
And talking to Sam Amick in March:
I mean I've obviously been (in Los Angeles) seven years, and the past two have been great. Doc has been my biggest supporter and the best coach I've ever had. The team is great. The guys are good. We have great camaraderie. But the free agency process is definitely going to be a fun one.
I want to experience it, to see what it's like, because before (in 2011) I was (a) restricted (free agent) so I just kind of had to wait it out. But I definitely want to experience it. I'm happy being a Clipper, I love it here. I've been here seven years, so this is definitely what I'm used to.
DeAndre's priorities and intentions have been clear from the start. Clippers fans were aware of this, but didn't fret about it too much. But shortly after the Rockets series ended, Fox Sports' Bill Reiter, an LA-based NBA columnist, reported a falling-out between Jordan and Chris Paul:
All season, multiple sources say, a growing schism emerged between Jordan and point guard Chris Paul, and it could contribute to Jordan's decision to stay or go as a free agent.
Sources say Paul's well-known edginess and drive ground on Jordan's nerves for much of the year. Contributing to the problem was Paul's view that Jordan lacked the appropriate commitment to working on his free throws, including not working enough with the Clippers shooting coach on that issue, sources said.
"Things aren't good there," a league source familiar with the inner workings of the Clippers organization said. Asked if the issues between the two were serious, the source said, "Oh yeah. (Jordan) might leave. He really might."
Overblown accounts of chemistry issues are nothing new to Clippers fans, of course. They even resurfaced earlier this year after a slow start to the season, although in truth the problems were limited mostly to a few bench players. But as we've seen over the years, suggestions that the Clippers' core players hate one another and don't get along haven't had much basis in fact. Clippers fans who've been watching the team closely know that if anything, the team has become closer and closer over the years.
Both Dahntay Jones (a free agent who may not return anyways) and Doc Rivers have come out to dismiss those rumors. To be fair, neither Jordan nor Paul have publicly said anything on the subject.
Since then, most of the reports about Jordan's infatuation with Dallas have come from ESPN's Tim MacMahon, who has been pushing the idea since the end of the season. Back in late May, he wrote the following in a speculative piece on a Jordan-Tyson Chandler trade:
Jordan intends to consider all of his options and has privately made it clear that he’s highly intrigued by the possibility of coming to Dallas as a featured attraction for the Mavs.
The idea of Jordan wanting a larger role has been brought up by other reporters, including from Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
The season ended with Rivers denying reports Jordan and Chris Paul had a beef with each other. But other NBA officials not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said there indeed is a rift between Jordan and Paul.
The officials said Jordan wants to be more involved in the offense and wants to be an All-Star, and he's not sure whether those things can happen on the Clippers with All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin.
Since then, rumors have continued to proliferate, with Dallas emerging as a serious contender for DeAndre's services.
There is some sense from Clippers side that Mavs have slight edge here w/ DeAndre Jordan, but the meetings matter - http://t.co/SdKAbsAnAn— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 29, 2015
And last night, MacMahon also reported that sources considered the Mavericks the biggest threat to the Clippers, although he qualified that by adding that the Clippers were the still the favorites to retain him. Dallas is putting out all the stops, bringing in Dez Bryant and Jerry Jones to seduce DeAndre, a known Cowboys diehard. And current Maverick Chandler Parsons (instrumental in recruiting Dwight Howard to the Rockets) has been spotted hanging out with DeAndre all week, including with Wesley Matthew (again, per MacMahon) — and, if you believe in unconfirmed rumors, with Dallas owner Mark Cuban.
It certainly seems like a lot of smoke here. But there really enough fire for Clippers fans to seriously worry? I'm still skeptical.
What do we actually know here, other than that the Mavericks are in hot pursuit? There are far more reasons for Jordan to stay in a great situation than for him to depart for greener (or, as of fifteen years ago, bluer) pastures. Dallas can make him the #2 option and is closer to his home in Houston, and they can actually offer him slightly more money per year, thanks to state income taxes.
But let's be clear: the idea that his departure is imminent, or that there's some huge chemistry issue — these are still unfounded. Who's reporting this? National writers are discussing rumors, one Mavericks writer, and some folks in Los Angeles. Where are the sources? Apart from the Reiter report from a month ago, they're simply 'unnamed NBA sources'.
If these rumors were actually more serious than they appear, we'd have heard all about it in Los Angeles. The media in this town has historically relished any supposed Clippers drama, exhibiting a noticeable pro-Lakers bias (and let's not forget, the Lakers are pursuing Jordan too). Clippers beat writers have said nothing on the subject so far — if they had any reason to believe the rumors, I'd expect that they would be eagerly discussing it, as they did with the midseason reports of chemistry troubles.
Apart from Reiter, who's not known as a reliable newsbreaker in the mold of Wojnarowski and Amick, there's been nothing to confirm the credibility of a Jordan-Paul split. If this was actually noteworthy, it's likely that we'd have heard rumors sourced from 'anonymous Clippers players' or 'members of the organization'.
A report from the likes of Amick, Stein, or Wojnarowski would also add credibility to the idea that Jordan is more likely to leave than not. But Amick has only reported that the Clippers fear the Mavericks and consider them a significant threat to sign away DeAndre. There's been nothing leaked from DeAndre's camp, or from within the Clippers organization, which leads me to think that these rumors are overblown. Hell, even reports from beat writers and national reporters can be unreliable at times — just look at all the drama surrounding Kevin Love and David Blatt this season in Cleveland (especially Love).
As for DeAndre and Chandler Parsons hanging out, so what? We know Parsons is obviously pulling out all the stops to recruit players to Dallas, but this doesn't guarantee anything. DeAndre and Parsons are both known as some of the most outgoing and well-connected players in the league, having friends and keeping in touch with players on pretty much every team in the league.
Until we get something concrete from Clippers beat writers (Dan Woike, Ben Bolch, or Arash Markazi), leaks obviously from the Clippers organization or Jordan camp, or reports from respected national writers, there's more smoke than fire here. Yes, DeAndre Jordan is strongly toying with the idea of the Mavericks, but as of now it's still just flirting, and more likely than not he'll stay with the Clippers.
While fans should maintain a healthy sense of apprehension (after all, our hearts have been broken far too many times before), there's no need to expect the worst when much of what's being reported is merely unsourced rumor, blown up by the Internet hype machine that we see around this time every year.
UPDATE: Hey, speaking of beat writers!
League source says it's likely that LaMarcus Aldridge is domino that falls first before DeAndre Jordan, who will decide between Clips/Mavs.— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) June 29, 2015
League source also says DeAndre Jordan looking at short-term, option-laden deal because of LeBron James precedent and Jordan's youth.— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) June 29, 2015
Clippers always felt it would come down to them and the Mavs for DeAndre Jordan. They're still cautiously optimistic that he will re-sign.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 29, 2015
This is an interesting development, considering that up to this point DJ has always wanted the long-term security. We'll see how this plays out.