Free-agent center DeAndre Jordan signed early Thursday morning with the Los Angeles Clippers, making official a reversal of his original decision to play for the Dallas Mavericks next season and ending a bizarre saga the dominated the end of the NBA signing moratorium period.
The Clippers confirmed the signing in a tweet that read “home is where your heart is.”
The team reportedly offered Jordan a four-year deal with an opt-out clause after the third year, according to the Los Angeles Times. (ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the contract is worth an estimated $84 million, while CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported the figure at $87.7 million.) Earlier reports had suggested the deal would be a five-year max contract worth more than $110 million.
A team of Clippers' personnel including head coach Doc Rivers, owner Steve Ballmer and star guard Chris Paul made an especially vigorous pursuit of Jordan's services on Wednesday by preventing Mavericks representatives from meeting with Jordan as scheduled.
ESPN's Tim McMahon pointed out that the arrangement, in which Jordan essentially deputized his former teammates and coach to help prevent him from taking the aforementioned meeting with Dallas, was amicable and not one of any duress.
The brigade of Clippers proved instrumental Wednesday night at helping Jordan avoid phone calls from Mavericks' representatives, including team owner Mark Cuban, McMahon said. Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin added levity to the affair by tweeting a photo of a chair at Jordan's house wedged up against a door handle, poking fun at the notion that Jordan was being held against his will.
Griffin reportedly cut short a Hawaiian vacation to be able to join the rest of the Clippers' contingent for the meeting, mirroring a move made earlier in the month by Mavericks' star Dirk Nowitzki, who was instrumental in drawing Jordan to Dallas initially.
Clippers representatives will stay with Jordan at the residence until that time to ensure Jordan signs with them on the spot, according to the Times.
The pivotal Wednesday meeting between Jordan and Los Angeles did not last particularly long, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, with all parties present saying only “what they had to.” Shelburne compared the content of the meeting to that of a closely-guarded locker room discussion. Jordan and the Clippers reportedly played cards following the discussion of the terms, Wojnarowskireported.
The meeting took place without Jordan's agent Dan Fegan, Shelburne said, despite Fegan flying to Houston earlier on Wednesday. Fegan is known to have a close relationship with Cuban, according to Stein.
On Friday, when Jordan signing with Dallas still seemed imminent, Cuban suggested to the media that the Mavericks would have considered tanking their upcoming 2015–16 season if they hadn't signed Jordan, in order to increase their odds of receiving a high pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
Jordan, who last spoke to anyone associated with the Mavericks on Tuesday, still planned on meeting with Dallas as of 8 pm ET Wednesday, according to TNT’s David Aldridge. But by 8:30 p.m. ET, reports surfaced that Jordan had changed course.
On July 3, Jordan reportedly agreed to sign a deal with Dallas. The decision came during the NBA's moratorium on player business, during which players can negotiate terms with teams but are not allowed to officially sign with teams. Thursday is the first day players can sign contracts.
But on Monday Jordan began to reconsider his decision to go through with the four-year, $80 million max contract the Mavericks offered him, Stein and Shelburne reported. Jordan called Rivers and Griffin to say that he was having second thoughts and that he felt he had made a mistake.
Los Angeles’s push for a player already committed to another team is unusual and could lead to potential reforms on the free-agent moratorium period.
The unorthodox approach of physically staying with Jordan until he signed a contract Wednesday seemed to exceed the tactics of teams in even the NBA's most notorious free-agency flip-flops, such as Carlos Boozer's in 2004 when he moved at the last minute from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Utah Jazz.
Former Brooklyn Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks said the manner of the Clippers' pursuit violated the NBA’s unwritten rules.
Others criticized Jordan's apparent reversal. Former Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets All-Star Clyde Drexler asked why Jordan was “playing with people's time and money,” and compared the value of Jordan's “word” to that of his free-throw shooting, which sat near a league-worst 40% during the 2014–15 NBA season.
Both franchises sent representatives to meet with Jordan earlier in the week after initial reports arose of his indecisiveness.
Clippers guard J.J. Redick, who lives in Texas, was reportedly dispatched to meet with other members of the Los Angeles organization in Houston with Jordan. Cuban and forward Chandler Parsons were reportedly among those representing the Mavericks in their meeting.
Jordan, who turns 27 later this month, averaged 11.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in 2014–15 for the Clippers. He has led the NBA in field goal percentage for the past three seasons and was the league’s leading rebounder in each of the last two seasons. He has played every game for the Clippers since the start of the 2011–12 season.