It's time, as a fanbase, for us to be at peace with the reality of DeAndre Jordan's free agency. There has been tons of smoke over the last few days regarding a potential move to the Dallas Mavericks. He's also taking meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. Who knows, where that smoke is, there may actually be fire, or there may not be.
DeAndre Jordan, the longest-tenured Clipper, with all seven of his NBA seasons spent playing in red, white, and blue, could be leaving within the next couple of days. If that day comes, it will be a sad time for Clippers fans everywhere, for practical financial and basketball reasons as well as sentimental ones. But, if that day comes, you shouldn't feel angry. You shouldn't curse DeAndre's name, tagging him in nasty posts on social media and slamming him with the F'DJ nametag we long ago applied to FElton Brand.
If, this weekend, we hear the news that DeAndre has indeed chosen to move on from our favorite team and play elsewhere, I have a mission for our fanbase. A counterintuitive one, and one that many loudmouthed and angry individuals won't adhere to, but a noble mission nonetheless. If DeAndre Jordan signs elsewhere, thank him. Tell him how much you have enjoyed watching him grow as a man and a player in the last seven years. Remind him of his best moments in a Clipper uniform, and remind him of his funniest quirks that made him so beloved in our community. Thank DeAndre Jordan for the seven years he gave us, don't damn him for not giving us more.
It doesn't make sense to be mad. DeAndre doesn't owe you anything, and he doesn't owe the Clippers anything either. Basketball is a highly emotional game, and the camaraderie and sentimentality of what occurs on the court, in the locker room, and even in living rooms where TV sets are tuned in is nothing short of magical, and certainly not business-like. However, basketball in the NBA is not just a game. The game is just one part of a large industry, and it's driven by the business side. What happens in offices, on conference calls, in private rooms at restaurants and hotel suites--that's what's business-like, and that's what really matters. Money talks, more than sentimentality, more than adrenaline, more than exuberance. Money persists, even when the heart rate slows down in the locker room after the game, even months later when the memories of a close game or amazing play are largely forgotten.
The NBA is driven by money, and the reality is that these 7 years have been a fair trade between the Clippers and DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers paid him a negotiated salary, and Jordan played high-quality basketball in return. Nobody owes anyone anything here, and there's no argument that the team got more than their money's worth on the deal: he never misses games and his play was impressive enough to earn him maximum-salary offers from multiple teams. If he inks a 5-year, $110 million contract with the Clippers, then he'll owe the team. He'll owe them five more years of his best effort and play on the court, and in return the team will owe him $110 million paid in scheduled installments.
For a NBA player, unrestricted free agency is an open market. He can sign anywhere that is willing to have him, even if it is only for the minimum. The tricky part often comes when negotiating salary. However, we often see players take paycuts to go to a contending team, or leave a contending team to take more money or a larger role (or both) on a worse team. Sometimes, living closer to home (even though Dallas is not Houston, it's a hell of a lot closer than Los Angeles is) matters: these guys have families and friends too. DeAndre Jordan played out his rookie contract as a second-round pick. He entered restricted free agency, tried to leave the team, and had his contract matched and was forced to return. He played out the entirety of his second contract as well without missing a single game, bringing him to seven full years on the Clippers without ever getting to choose whether he wanted to play here or not.
By all means, hasn't he earned the right to decide for himself where he wants to live? The man is 27 years old. Shouldn't he get to have some say in what city he may choose to settle down and start a family? Shouldn't he have the right to choose a larger role in the offense over being on a better team? And even if he's not capable of being a #1 or #2 option, shouldn't he have the right to believe in himself and try (especially with NBA front offices believing in him)?
And, what's most frustrating, is that some Clippers fans act as though he not only doesn't deserve those rights, but that he doesn't deserve the right to even take meetings with other teams. If you have 4 companies all offering you similar salaries, wouldn't you take all four meetings before deciding? I would. Wouldn't you want to figure out what your position would be in the company, consider where it's located, and consider the quality of the company, and then take those factors into serious consideration? I would. It's just good business, and whether we want to admit it or not, basketball is a business and DeAndre Jordan is a businessman.
DeAndre Jordan doesn't owe you anything, and if you think that he does, you don't deserve him, and you're in denial about how the NBA works when the doors are closed and the cameras are off. Stop with the anger. Stop with the melodramatic overreactions to every tweet about how many crinkle-cut fries Mark Cuban ate at dinner. Relax, reflect gratefully on the past seven years we've had to root for DeAndre, and embrace the possibility of him moving on to a new period of his life that he will carefully choose to maximize his happiness.
I hope DeAndre stays, but if he leaves, I'll thank him for his play during his time here, and you should too. It's been an amazing seven years, and not having an eighth won't change that.