We did it, fam. Yesterday, all of us throughout the world and on that digital dopamine drip known as Twitter dot com collectively experienced the most chickenshit moment in recent sports history.
To clarify, it wasn't chickenshit when DeAndre Jordan – who had agreed to terms with the Dallas Mavericks on a four-year contract last Friday – reportedly began to have second thoughts about his decision on Monday. These things are prone to happening when major life choices are involved, and most especially when that decision involves a dollar figure that could have gone up to nine figures. It would be more unusual if he hadn't panicked at some juncture.
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It also wasn't chickenshit for Jordan to call Doc Rivers and express concern that he made the wrong choice, and that he wanted to return to the Los Angeles Clippers. Believe it or not, players forge bonds with their head coaches, and a healthy portion of why Rivers is one of the best in the game is the unusual durability of the ties he forges with his stars. And given that Rivers also doubles as the Clippers' general manager, it wasn't chickenshit for the Clippers to make a fresh run at retaining him, either. Capped out and threadbare of tradable assets, that was the only move they could make.
Setting fresh meetings mere hours before the NBA moratorium ends? Still not chickenshit, actually. It can't be ruled out when the NBA institutes an eight-day moratorium between the start of free agency and the first day contracts can actually be signed. This is not only more red tape than you'll encounter when signing free agents in any other major American professional sports league; it's longer than the waiting period to purchase gun in the majority of U.S. states, and longer than it took me to procure a California driver's license. Aside from Jordan himself, the single-greatest culprit for why this went down is this nonsensical moratorium rule. If you're pissed off about anything you've read thus far, parcel out a healthy portion of your rage there.
Taking the Clippers seriously, in spite of the fact that literally none of the players in yesterday's meeting bothered to show up a week ago when Jordan was first on the open market? Freezing out his agent so he—the dude with one year of college under his belt—could negotiate a contract on the fly, by himself? Nope, not chickenshit. Self-deluding, perhaps, and also possibly ill-advised. But not chickenshit.
But Jordan playing things off as though the Clippers organization barricaded him in his own home to force him to renege on an in-person meeting with the team with whom he agreed to a contract—and consequently, more or less wrecking the rest of that team's offseason—and then refusing to even take a phone call to offer as little as a cursory explanation? Now, THAT is chickenshit.
And that's all this really is, nothing more or less. DeAndre Jordan is no lovelorn, adopted Angeleno who gamely resisted being ripped from his people, city and team in their time of need. Nor is he a soulless thug without scruples, all too eager to piss on a franchise that poured precious time and resources into him. He just did a really chickenshit thing, barreling into a decision before he was prepared to make one, then lacking the fortitude to admit as much to the people he committed to.
His recourse was to hide, both literally within the walls of his home, and figuratively behind a trumped-up narrative that the Clippers organization was holding him hostage until he could put pen to paper at 11:01 CT. This was a day when a hailstorm of emojis hijacked sports media and yet the single most mindless thing of all is the idea that the Clippers had any semblance of control over what happened inside Jordan's house.
The Clippers were no different than the Mavericks, which is to say they were two ends of a seesaw that would lurch in opposite directions whenever Jordan made his choice. He had all the leverage, not the mention the legal right to tell them to get off his property at any moment he saw fit. He could have invited Mark Cuban and Chandler Parsons into his living room and Rivers probably would have served them pate during their meeting if Jordan so desired.
That none of that ultimately happened is only because Jordan did not want it to. The Clippers had sway because Jordan gifted it to them and there were chairs wedged against door handles because someone asked his permission to move his furniture accordingly. At no point last night was DeAndre Jordan's agency ever threatened. In reality, the Clippers had long ago surrendered theirs to him.
A bizarre subset of conversation tried to paint all of this with the same brush as high school recruiting, invoking the hucksterism of a savvy coach refusing to leave until he successfully conned his target into a signature. Except recruiting is a mostly unsanctioned bazaar in which hundreds of colleges peck away at impressionable teenagers for years at a time. On the times when an athlete does back out of a commitment, it's usually because they had committed in the first place so that people would just leave them alone. DeAndre Jordan, on the other hand, is a soon-to-be 27-year-old ostensibly competent enough to negotiate an $88 million contract without legal advice. He is an adult in every possible sense, and yet somehow he could not endure eight days of courtship in a controlled environment, from a handful of teams, without dropping pesticides into the NBA ecosystem.
The working theory for why this all happened is that Jordan's agent, Dan Fegan, supposedly strong-armed him into signing with the Mavericks. This wouldn't be overly surprising; Fegan and Cuban have done a lot of deals together over the years, and the uncomfortable truth of sports business is that agents strong-arming their clients is often how things get done. But it is so representatively chickenshit of this entire feces-matted-to-feathers affair that Jordan, the one notable athlete in recent memory with the gumption to exile his agent hours before making the greatest financial commitment of his life, will attempt to preserve his reputation by painting himself as his advisor's helpless pawn days earlier. ESPN's Michael Eaves, who covered Jordan for years during his time with FOX Sports West, believes that this boils down to Jordan being afraid to disappoint people, and that Jordan's family was extremely disappointed in his choice sign with Dallas. That's a far more plausible explanation and, insofar as having the right to change his mind before the contract's signed, a pretty valid reason to alter course.
It does not, however, provide license to go about it like a chickenshit. There are many reasons why one should not feel required to align their sympathies with a multi-billionaire like Cuban—if you feel compelled to have sympathies at all in this situation—but strip away the incidentals and he's no different than a poor sap being ghosted by his fiancee. As of Thursday morning, he had still not heard anything from the player who he had hoped would save the organization's future, but who instead plunged them back into NBA purgatory. That, without qualification, sucks.
Jordan is a Clipper again and his playoff chances will be better for it, and perhaps his personal life, too. There is nothing wrong with any of that. But his reputation won't be the same, and it isn't because he changed his mind or that the Clippers pursued him again or that he collapsed the toothpick bridge of trust that stupidly governs the most important stage of the NBA offseason. It's just hard for people to get someone's back when they act like a chickenshit.
Editor's Note: Mike Piellucci was born in Dallas, Texas.