The Los Angeles Clippers have taken the as far as I know unprecedented step of pressuring DeAndre Jordan to change his mind, break his verbal agreement to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, and instead remain with the Clippers. According to reports, Doc Rivers has flown to Houston to meet with Jordan today, possibly accompanied by the likes of Steve Ballmer, Blake Grffin, and yes, Chris Paul.
Remember, free agency opened on July 1, but officially we are in the moratorium, and no deal is official because no contracts are signed until the end of the moratorium, which is tomorrow, July 9 (technically tonight, since midnight eastern time will be just 9 PM here in LA). It's fairly common for some of the details of a deal to change when it is finally executed, for instance for a free agent signing to morph into a trade. It is less common, though not unheard of, for a deal to fall through altogether, as was the case a few years back when Hedo Turkoglu reached a verbal agreement with Portland, but changed his mind and signed with Toronto instead.
What is unheard of is for a team to continue to pursue a player after he has committed elsewhere. It's fair to ask why this is so rare, given that these deals are not in fact official. Teams continue to foul and shoot threes when they're down 10 with 30 seconds left in a game. Why would they give up on a free agent before the final horn? For a couple of reasons.
In most cases, it is more important to move on to Plan B. Dominoes are frequently used as an analogy for free agency for a reason: when one falls, others will soon follow, and if your free agent commits to another team, you have to work quickly to try to find his replacement. Then, once you're committed to that replacement, there's no reasonable way to go back to the original player.
Of course, in the specific case of the Clippers this season, this most obvious reason for not fighting for the lost cause has been removed. They have no cap space, they have few trade assets, there is no Plan B -- so they might as well keep chasing after Plan A, regardless of how much of a long shot it may be.
But there's another very, very important reason that teams don't do this: because players have agents. Now, going back to the Elton Brand situation, Clipper fans have witnessed first hand the power of NBA agents -- while simultaneously watching an agent who clearly did NOT have his player's best interests in mind.
Jordan is represented by Dan Fegan, one of the most powerful agents in the NBA. Fegan also happens to be close friends with Mark Cuban, and has seen many of his clients sign in Dallas, including lead Jordan recruiter Chandler Parsons. The Clippers are reportedly reaching out directly to Jordan now, bypassing his reps -- a big no-no in general.
This is a Hail Mary pass and a big gamble -- the Clippers run the risk of angering not just Fegan, but every agent out there, by committing such a significant breach of protocol. Perhaps they feel justified in doing so because they feel like Fegan was not acting in the best interests of his client. (I've said all along that he was not -- the bill of goods the Mavericks sold to Jordan was a load of horse shit; it's one thing for Jordan to eat up what they're shoveling, but he pays his representatives to tell him the truth, not to steer him to Cuban.)
There must be another factor in play here though. Jordan must have signaled somehow to the Clippers that they still had a shot. The Clippers are stepping on toes whether this works or not -- I find it hard to believe that they would risk it if they didn't feel like they had a really good chance of convincing DeAndre to stay. You think J.J. Redick gives you an F-minus in free agency for losing DeAndre? How about losing him and who knows how many future free agents because you broke an unwritten rule about dealing with agents? My guess is that Griffin has been with Jordan a lot since the announcement, and that Jordan has expressed regret about his decision and questions about his representation.
Seasons aren't often made or unmade in early July bu if the Clippers can convince Jordan to change his mind, it will be one of the great comebacks in NBA history. If they fail in this effort, they're likely going to suffer additional consequences.