X

DeAndre Jordan Free-Agent Saga Ends with Clippers Retaining Contender Status

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2015

Getty Images

"Then they started to play cards."

That was the final exclamation point to Wednesday's DeAndre Jordan spectacle from one of the NBA's most respected reporters, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

That absurdity came from the fingertips of a being more associated with robots than humans. It was a perfect tone to describe how quickly Jordan actually came to his decision to renege on his agreement with the Dallas Mavericks and instead re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers after meeting with L.A. officials and players Wednesday.

But on a day that included emoji battles, hideouts, cancelled vacations, Twitter panic attacks and possibly the start of a chain of events that could reform the NBA's free-agent scene, DeAndre Jordan is heading back to the franchise that drafted him.

Jordan agreed to head to the Mavericks on a four-year maximum deal July 3. But according to the NBA's moratorium rules, free agents cannot actually sign contracts until July 9. The league uses the first eight days of the month to calculate the salary-cap and luxury-tax line for the upcoming year and must wait until that time to make computations since the fiscal year ends June 30.

At some point between his agreement with the Mavs and Wednesday, Jordan had a change of heart. ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne started Wednesday off by dropping a bomb on the Twittersphere:

Ramona Shelburne @ramonashelburne

Like I said, this started Monday with DJ having second thoughts and CALLING Doc Rivers.

What ensued was a rougher ride than a banana boat on a riptide, but somehow we got here, to a place where Jordan is still a Clipper, where he was technically never a Maverick. This would be a moment when any general manager or owner would feel the desire to shave his head and become the real-life version of Lex Luthor.

Jordan essentially pulled the okey doke on the entire Mavs organization.

nick @nick_pants

http://t.co/yfpd6O677L

Everything about the final day of the NBA's moratorium screamed "2015," whether it was the amount of news that went down on Twitter, the emoji battle involving seemingly every NBA player, the jabs at the 37-year-old Paul Pierce for being an old man because he used what looked like a screen shot of a space ship he drew on Kid Pix instead of just choosing the rocket emoticon on his phone.

It was an extended moment for the millennials, those who are part of a generation that notoriously jumps from job to job, duty to duty in search of a profession that doesn't just pay the bills but is also rewarding.

Recent college grads don't join companies now. They go to Silicon Valley to start their own. Or in the case of Jordan, they travel just south of there.

To Los Angeles, a place where he can now play for a legitimate championship contender.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

That part has been somewhat left out of the discussion. In some ways, it should be. Wednesday may have given us the strangest free-agency story in league history. Any incident that involves a player being strategically isolated to his house, as Wojnarowski reported, has to be the lede in any newspaper or episode of SportsCenter.

We figured Dallas might use the BAE (bi-annual exception) to sign someone this summer, but until Blake Griffin and Co. started blocking doors with chairs, we never expected the Mavs would need to commit a B&E.

Though during all this chaos, during all the time the Mavs were metaphorically trying to break down Jordan's front door, the Clippers themselves broke into an unexpected category: championship contenders once again.

How quickly one player can change the landscape of a franchise.

Without Jordan, the Clippers didn't have a defense. They had only one big man on the roster, Griffin, who's hardly your conventional center.

They were considering guys such as Josh Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire and JaVale McGee—according to reports from Shelburne and Woj—all of whom were waived at different points this past season. It wasn't exactly the best crop of options with the market for centers mostly evaporated.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Now, they get their defense back. Their rebounding returns along with the man who's led the league in boards two seasons in a row. Their high-flying pick-and-roll attack is back. Their floor spacing, the gravity Jordan pulls when darting to the rim and the shots he opens up on the perimeter are all re-entering the Staples Center.

"Sob City" has resumed its previous identity.

It's not the first time in NBA history that something like this has happened. It's just the first time the process has been so public.

Antonio McDyess created a similar situation in 1999. Carlos Boozer committed the same offense when he walked away from the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Utah Jazz during the summer of 2004. Hedo Turkoglu spurned the Portland Trail Blazers for the Toronto Raptors in 2009 too.

And don't think Clippers fans have only reaped the benefits of this system. Things tend to even out, and back in 2008, Elton Brand pulled almost the identical stunt (minus the theatrics) when he darted for Philadelphia after unofficially agreeing to re-sign with the Clippers to play alongside the newly acquired Baron Davis.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

We've seen it all over. Coaches too.

Billy Donovan took a job with the Orlando Magic in 2007 only to change his mind days later and head back to the University of Florida.

Heck, it happens in all sports. Just ask New York Jets fans about the one, single day when Bill Belichick was head coach of their team. Indecision is part of the game.

This move doesn't make Jordan a bad guy, though it'll hardly help with his likability.

Immature, sure. Malicious, hardly—especially for a guy who has been well-liked around the league for most of his career. Still, critics who castigate Jordan for reportedly hiding out and refusing to take calls from Cuban or even Chandler Parsons, according to ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, have more than a legitimate point.

But this all comes back to a system which allows for these admittedly rare actions to happen. Maybe this latest instance prompts the NBA to consider abandoning an eight-day moratorium and just using this time to solve its finances, starting the free-agency negotiations once the cap and luxury-tax lines are already set.

Who knows how long that would take to change? Sometimes, one crazy day is all you need, and it is funny that Jordan could end up inspiring two rule changes between the NBA's first hideout situation and the Deck-a-DJ fiasco during the 2015 playoffs.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

We won't know the ramifications of Wednesday until later. What we do know, for now, is the Clippers are deeper than they were last season, when they had the talent but didn't have the chops to head to the Western Conference Finals.

They essentially turned Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes into Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce. Now, Jordan is back to create a top eight, which includes Paul, Griffin, Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Stephenson, Pierce and Wesley Johnson, who agreed to terms Tuesday.

The fringes are good enough. Now, the core is solidified. Put L.A. up there with the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers among the NBA's elite.

But man, I can't wait for that first Clips game in Dallas. Until then, let's go play cards.

Follow Fred Katz on Twitter at @FredKatz.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.