One week ago, the Clippers came to town and the Mavericks won a very big game against a team that suddenly has a 7-foot target on their back. The problem with this new rivalry is it seems to be almost entirely fueled by an issue with a single player as opposed to an ongoing back-and-forth between teams. I want to make myself very clear before I get into the meat portion of this post: I’m new to the Mavericks fan club, and I respect my fellow MFFLs. I also have always respected Mark Cuban and chuckled at his antics, way before fate decided I needed to start rooting for the team he owned. All that said, the hysteria around DeAndre Jordan‘s decision not to join the Mavericks this past offseason is out of control. He shouldn’t be getting booed in Dallas — he isn’t important enough to even deserve that distinction.
When the Mavericks were formed in 1980 largely due to the insistence of businessman Don Carter, who still owns a minority stake in the team and loves to attend the games in a Mavericks uniform paired with a cowboy hat, they drafted a player named Kiki Vandeweghe with their first round selection. As I briefly outlined on the “About Booing Kiki” page, Vandeweghe didn’t want to start his career with the Mavericks, so he essentially forced the team to trade him. That act is offensive, and he deserved the boos he got through the years that followed. He also deserved getting this top-notch Mavericks blog named after him. DeAndre Jordan was never a part of the Mavericks organization. He just thought it sounded nice and then decided it would be better for him if he stayed where he was.
There’s a big difference in these two decisions. Boo Kiki all you want, especially since continuing to do it now would probably result in more traffic here, but seriously, there’s no reason to boo a player that chose to be loyal to his previous team. Vandeweghe had no previous team, unless his refusal to play for the Mavericks stemmed from the desire to stay at UCLA and play college basketball forever. He refused the first NBA team that wanted to call him theirs, and that’s wrong. Kiki turned out to be a solid player for several years, but he wasn’t by any means a legend, and even if he were, how is it okay to turn down a team because they aren’t good enough? Go the Michael Jordan route, asshole. Put the team on your back and stick it out until they get good enough to start winning.
Jordan (DeAndre, that is) didn’t turn the Mavericks down because they weren’t good enough. I’m sure he was confident that Cuban and those below him could put together a competitive roster over the next several seasons, particularly with such a dominant defensive presence in the middle. It was simply a personal preference, a last-minute decision that staying in Los Angeles was what he really wanted to do.
Much has been written about Jordan’s method of handling that change of heart being the real problem. Yes, the fact that he suddenly cut off contact with the Mavericks isn’t very commendable, and it’s certainly disappointing he didn’t just man up and admit that he felt his place was with the Clippers. That said, Mark Cuban is not the easiest guy to level with. The brash billionaire does not strike me as the approachable type, and Jordan probably felt that backing out on his verbal commitment would not be a pleasant experience, so he ducked out on it. Oh, we all hate it when people do that, don’t we, but then we do it ourselves regularly. The idea of a stand-up guy who always owns up to his decisions in the moment he makes them is a nice thought, but anyone who thinks of himself that way is delusional. Avoiding conflict is a natural desire, and even if the conflict derives purely from our decisions, that doesn’t mean we want to tap the people we misled on the shoulders and inform them that we want a do-over.
In a perfect world, Jordan should have politely and apologetically informed Cuban and Chandler Parsons — allegedly the main recruiter — that despite the previous agreement, he really felt like he belonged in Los Angeles. Here’s the thing: going that route wouldn’t have made a difference. Hot-headed Mark Cuban still would have felt betrayed, and so would the whole Mavericks fan base. Jordan made it easier for Dallas to boo him, but what he did wasn’t unusual or uncommon, or even that big of a deal.
Jordan never trashed the Mavericks or rejected them like Vandeweghe did. He just wanted to stay where he was already comfortable, and that’s not so hard to understand. The incessant booing makes for good entertainment, and I doubt it makes it any more difficult for Jordan to sleep at night, but the city of Dallas would be better off if they chose to forget the whole thing ever happened — because it didn’t.