Perusing my list of smartphone emojis, I choose the frowning devil. That would symbolize Mark Cuban today and, really, any sports owner or business executive who has lived by a traditional decree: No paperwork can be considered official without a signature. If the NBA is so reckless not to require an immediate signed contract when a free agent agrees to a deal with a team, then the league deserves the high-comedy, multi-emoji, social media debacle that led to a sports first.
Basically, 6-11 center DeAndre Jordan was kidnapped and held hostage in his own Houston home by the owner, the head coach and various members of the Los Angeles Clippers, who convinced him to renege on his verbal agreement with the Dallas Mavericks and stay in L.A. This has prompted a storm of criticism branding Jordan as everything from a traitor to a coward to someone who should apologize to a more accomplished Jordan — Michael Jeffrey — for shaming his last name. A breach of ethics, they’re calling it, with an incensed Cuban no doubt ready to add a string of expletives when he speaks up as the spurned Mavericks owner. Allow me to pose a question to those who think DeAndre is DeArnold, as in Benedict.
How many times has a sports owner or CEO broken a promise because, ahem, a signature wasn’t on the bottom of a document? How do you think people like Cuban, who appears on a TV show called “Shark Tank,” get ahead in the business world? Because they’re shrewd SOBs, and part of that guile can involve nixing a verbal deal that isn’t officially complete. So don’t tell me that Jordan went back on his word and was “very unethical and disrespectful,” as the Dallas player who originally recruited him, Chandler Parsons, told ESPN.com.
He and the Clippers were simply following the rules, which state that any deal agreed upon when free agency begins at midnight on July 1 cannot be signed and made official until July 9. Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and other Clippers personnel invaded Jordan’s home July 8, realizing that a so-called moratorium doesn’t preclude a spurned team from trying to persuade a lost player to come home. For all the NBA’s prominence and power as a multi-billion-dollar operation, commissioner Adam Silver was blind in allowing this dead period to remain so vague. And Cuban — instead of trumpeting the Jordan signing on a Dallas radio show and assuming the deal was done because of his friendship with Jordan’s agent, Dan Fegan — should have detected as a smart businessman that Jordan’s heart wasn’t entirely invested last week.
Never assume. Or you risk becoming the first syllable of assume.
“I don’t think the time is right to say anything beyond that he never responded to me at all yesterday. Not once,“ Cuban wrote on a messaging app Thursday. “To this minute I have not heard anything from him since Tuesday night.”
Don’t think anyone’s feeling sorry for Mark the Shark.
Juxtaposed against these insane developments was a pleasant, orderly news conference in downtown Oakland, where the Warriors were celebrating their five-year, $85 million deal with Draymond Green. Beyond one brief overnight period in which talks broke off, there was no drama in the Green signing. Praising everyone in the organization, from owner Joe Lacob to “the people upstairs we never see,” Green’s remarks reflected his gratitude for being part of a mechanism that allows him to be successful. Whereas Jordan was tempted to leave the Clippers because of dissension within the ranks, the Warriors have fostered a unified love-in. They use Twitter in positive ways, such as group-chatting that, this month, has included congratulations for Green and best wishes for ex-teammates David Lee and Justin Holiday, who are off to Boston and Atlanta. This is how titles are won.
This is the fundamental difference between champs and chumps.
“I want to be a part of a young group of guys who are all committed to each other,” Green said. “If you could see our group chat, whether it was me signing my deal or whether it was everybody talking to David when the news broke the other day, or it was everybody congratulating Justin. The feeling that you get from that, I’m not sure if you can get that from any other team in the NBA. And so, that’s something that I want to continue to be a part of.”
He loves it here so much, in fact, Green said he would play for free. He joked with general manager Bob Myers, who joined him on the dais, that he could admit as much now that the contract was signed … with ink on actual paper.
“Take back the contract. The league has not received the contract,” cracked Myers, no doubt referencing the DeAndre DeBacle.
As the Jordan raid was taking place, the Clippers were launching a Twitter barrage that turned their heist into a farce, reminding us why that franchise has been a recent underachiever and a historic embarrassment. One reason Jordan agreed to an $80-million-plus deal with Dallas was his strained relationship with Paul, who, when not pleased with Jordan, would freeze him out of the offense or refuse to high-five him while high-fiving others. Now, suddenly, Paul was among the Clippers having a good old time detailing the scene inside Jordan’s home on Twitter. Griffin tweeted a photo of a door blocked by a chair.
“Don’t agree with the furniture layout but I’m not an interior designer,” wrote Griffin, veteran star of goofy Kia commercials.
Next came the emojis. Parsons, furiously en route to Houston in an attempt to join Cuban and Fegan in a failed intervention, tweeted an emoji of an airplane. Griffin countered with an emoji of the same plane, a helicopter and a car. Paul tweeted a banana and a boat, a way of noting that he’d re-directed his return flight to Houston after vacationing with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. Never has the use of social media made a bigger impact on a developing sports news story. Kobe Bryant, prefacing with an “Emoji battle?” tweet, fired off images of five trophies.
Then came the Warriors, on their official Twitter account, weighing in with one trophy. Green, famous for taking verbal shots at the Clippers, following the drama with amazement like the rest of us. But he stopped short of exacerbating a rivalry that will resume with more heat, now that the Warriors have the hardware.
“That whole fiasco that went on yesterday, it was fun to watch,” Green said. “You know, the emoji was funny. Twitter was going crazy. That was pretty fun. I was just a spectator, and I’m going to continue to just be a spectator.”
Besides, Green and his mates have won that head game. Their major obstacle now, after a stunning flurry of moves, is San Antonio. The Clippers may have won their home invasion and one-upped Cuban, who is headed to a bar and the lottery. But if the objectives are dignity and unity, then this week has demonstrated, again, why the Warriors won when others are doomed to lose.Blake GriffinBob MyersChandler ParsonsChris PaulDallas MavericksDan FeganDavid LeeDeAndre JordanGolden State WarriorsJoe LacobJustin HolidayLos Angeles ClippersMark CubanMichael JordanShark TankSteve Ballmer