On July 3rd, DeAndre Jordan verbally committed to signing a four-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks. This was a major coup for the Mavs and a massive set-back for the Clippers – threatening to dislodge them from their spot as a perennial contender in the ultra-competitive western conference.
Some kind of drastic action was necessary, but what Doc and the Clips chose to do was all wrong.
Rather than respect the deal reached by DJ and the Mavs, the Clippers chose not to accept Jordan’s decision, and sought to undermine the agreement by taking advantage of the senseless moratorium on finalizing free agent deals and continuing to pursue DJ even after he had committed to the Mavs.
As we all know, the Clippers ultimately succeeded in this effort and, on July 8th, DJ backed out of the deal with the Mavs and committed to remaining in LA. Marc Cuban’s hurt feelings aside, this became a huge problem for the Mavs. When DJ committed, they presumably stopped chasing their second, third and fourth choice free agents. By the time they learned of DJ’s change of heart, those guys would have been snapped up by other teams. While the Mavs ultimately managed an upgrade at the point guard position by taking Deron Williams off the Nets’ hands, they are nowhere near the team they would have been with Jordan, and are likely to find themselves battling to make the playoffs this season.
Admittedly, we are told that Jordan initiated the renewed discussions with the Clippers and, of course, because of the moratorium, Jordan had the right to back out of his deal in Dallas. Nevertheless, the actions of Doc and the Clippers were entirely inappropriate.
Upon being approached by Jordan, the Clippers should have told him that they were not prepared to speak to him as long as he had an outstanding verbal commitment to another team. Jordan could then have made the decision to tell the Mavs he has withdrawing his verbal commitment and would continue to speak with other clubs.
Shockingly, this is the second time in less than a year we have seen this kind of underhanded behaviour from Rivers. When Kendrick Perkins signed with the Cavs after being waived by Utah, Rivers reportedly continued to pursue Perkins even after he had committed to Cleveland, again seeking to undermine an agreement between another club and a player.
NBA teams like the Mavs and the Cavs need to know that, once they’ve made a deal with a player, it will be respected, and that other clubs won’t try to steal committed players out from under them. The NBA, whether formally or informally, needs to censure Rivers for his behaviour. Because of the formal moratorium, there isn’t much the NBA can do, unless it wants to change that rule (which it should). The rest of the league, however, can institute its own discipline, and if I was an NBA GM, it would be a long time before I was willing to have any kind of trade discussions with Doc or the Clippers.