Ramona Shelburne and Tim McMahon of ESPN have the (to date) definitive timeline on what went down between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks and coveted free agent center DeAndre Jordan.
The basics of what happened -- the Mavs hit Jordan with a full court press of attention and told him exactly what he wanted to hear, Jordan bought in and gave a verbal commitment to Dallas only to realize later that it was not the best decision for him at which point he signed with the Clippers -- are very clear at this point. The details however are pretty interesting.
Go read the article -- it's a must read for all Clippers fans. I won't rehash it all here, but I will say a few things.
It seems to be that Ramona glosses over the part that agent Dan Fegan might have played in all of this. I find it difficult to believe that in a five thousand word expose, the agent's role warranted no more than seven sentences which put the blame completely on Jordan.
For years, teams and rival agents have griped about the friendship between Cuban and Fegan. Accusations and rumors of undue influence fly every time they do a deal together.
Cuban says he understands the concern, but swears he received no advantage on any other team other than Fegan's positive reviews of his franchise.
"I know the supposition was that they did [Jordan's recruiting process] differently for me because we're friends," Cuban said. "But I can tell you the process was run exactly the same as it was for Dwight [Howard] and we didn't get him either."
Ultimately, Jordan is a 26-year-old multimillionaire who had to make a decision. No one could force him to do anything he didn't want to. And clearly, by the end, Jordan did exactly as he pleased.
I have at least two problems with the above:
(1) Saying that it's ultimately Jodan's decision does NOT absolve Fegan of wrongdoing. No one is suggesting that Fegan put a gun to anyone's head, but there are lots of ways to give the Mavs the advantage if Fegan wants to. Saying that Jordan is a grown man and can make his own decision precludes the need for an agent in the first place. There's lots of room between "Fegan was not acting in the best interests of his client" and "Jordan had to make the decision himself in the end." Even if "No one could force him to do anything he didn't want to" they could still try to manipulate him. Neither is acceptable.
(2) The funny thing about the quotes here is that no one ever says that nothing underhanded was done. Just because the Mavs got neither Howard nor Jordan, does NOT mean that Fegan was being an honest broker in the negotiations. Besides, in the case of Howard the widely held belief is that the Rockets let Chandler Parsons out of the final year of his contract in exchange for getting Howard -- if you subscribe to that theory, the Mavs benefited even if they didn't get Howard.
There's an obvious disconnect here. Jordan spent SEVERAL DAYS regretting his decision and even talking to the Clippers before he even informed his agency. He didn't even have them in the room until it was legally necessary for signing a contract. That indicates a very poor relationship at least. Is that all on DJ? Or did Jordan have a legitimate reason to distrust Fegan in this situation?
Of course journalists are perhaps more conflicted in their relationships with agents than are owners. Where do you think the inside info comes from? I have no idea if Shelburne and/or McMahon are glossing over Fegan's role to preserve an ongoing relationship, but it's a possibility. McMahon has been a Fegan apologist from the start.
I am personally troubled by the fact that the Clippers were so deep into conversations with Jordan without being up front with the agency and the Mavericks. If DeAndre has changed his mind, of course you talk to him. But as has been pointed out many times, the Mavs have made follow on business decisions on the assumption that they had Jordan. If they didn't, and Rivers knows it, then continuing to recruit him in secret is a problem.
The question of who placed that first phone call between Jordan and Rivers is up in the air -- was it Jordan or was it Rivers who dialed the phone? Honestly, I don't care. But both of them had an obligation to inform the other affected parties. If we excuse DJ because he's 26 and he's embarrassed, fine. What's Doc's excuse? He needed to say "DeAndre -- if you're not going to tell Fegan and Cuban what's happening then I am. They have a right to know."
Of course Rivers is going to get in the game when he finds out that DeAndre is having second thoughts. But he is not blameless, and if he was doing things behind the back of the Mavericks and Fegan, that's not good. It's not terrible -- I mean, it's not like he killed anyone's dog -- but it's not good.
Whether the Clippers really understood that Dallas was a serious threat is a question worth asking. Shelburne says "Nothing in their first pitch to Jordan really connected on [his] issues. Instead the Clippers talked about things like beefing up their marketing efforts in China to help him get more All-Star votes." (Of course, Fegan gave the Mavs the fun Nobu private room dinner the night before -- just one of those ways he didn't influence things at all.)
It seems obvious in retrospect that the Clippers felt like I did, like so many people did: that the choice was so obvious that they didn't need to be worried. Should they have blown some smoke up DJ's skirt, responding to the "I want to be the third star, not the third wheel" whining? If they had we could have avoided this whole thing.
It's easy to see why the Clippers felt so confident. Doc Rivers had made Jordan what he is. Jordan went from 24.5 minutes per game in 2012/13 to third team All-NBA in 2014/15 all because Rivers believed in the guy. They didn't think they needed to explain how much they liked him, how well he fit -- it was pretty obvious. A (big) part of me says that if Jordan first chose the Mavs because the Clippers refused to tell the lies that Dallas was telling then I can't really fault them for that. But Paul and Griffin should have been in the room -- there shouldn't have been any doubt that he was loved and needed, which is what he most wanted to hear.
"He got 0.8 post-ups a game last season," Cuban said. "That's less than Kyle Lowry and Khris Middleton. His usage rate was 18th on the Clippers and sixth-lowest in the NBA. I said to him, 'DJ, if you want to be a brand, you have to separate yourself.'"We didn't talk bad about the Clippers. We just said that there aren't enough balls to go around for you to reach your potential there."
Well, let's define our terms. DeAndre was sixth lowest in usage in the NBA among starters, which is low, but by juxtaposing it to 18th on the Clippers the implication is a little different. Apples to apples, DJ was fifth among Clipper starters in usage, a bit ahead of Matt Barnes, pretty much where he should have been. In fact, DJ was 28th in usage among qualified players, with a slightly higher usage rate than Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. So maybe usage isn't the be all end all at the end of the day. More importantly, it turns out that one of the five NBA starters with a lower usage was ... wait for it ... Tyson Chandler. The idea that Dallas is the one and only place for an athletic but offensively limited center to go and thrive is just absurd to me. WE KNOW HOW CARLISLE WOULD USE JORDAN! EXACTLY THE WAY HE USED CHANDLER!
The idea that there aren't enough balls to go around on the Clippers is interesting too, right? Another way to put that: "Your teammates in LA are really, really good. The guys you'd be playing with in Dallas kind of suck. So come to Dallas." That pitch might have been a bit too honest.
It was already pretty clear, but the article spells out just how different the reality was from the way it all played last Wednesday. On Twitter, it felt like every new bit of information was important. "Parsons is flying in!" "Blake cut his vacation short!" "OMG the Clippers won't leave his house and let the Mavs meet him!"
The reality is very, very different. By the time Marc Stein reported that Jordan was having second thoughts, the die was already cast. He was already going to sign with the Clippers, and nothing was going to change that. Wednesday night at Jordan's Houston house wasn't a hostage crisis -- it was a team-building exercise for the new Clippers starting five (it was the first time they'd even been together, incidentally) complete with a cameo from Marcus Camby. The Clippers didn't stay until midnight to keep Cuban from getting to Jordan. They stayed because what the hell else were they going to do?
I do need to question one Marc Stein tweet from Wednesday. Stein said that Jordan had agreed to a meeting with Cuban, but this article makes no mention of it. DeAndre didn't behave in a particularly ethical manner throughout this, but it always struck me as odd that he'd agree to a meeting and then not allow it to happen.