EMOJIS ARE THE SECRET WEAPON IN MODERN ROSTER WARFARE.
If the offseason pursuit of free agent center DeAndre Jordan taught us anything, it's this: A deal is not a deal if a roomful of buddies, some bags of takeout and a few goofy tweets can derail it.
10/7/2015 | By Ramona Shelburne and Tim MacMahon Illustrations by Rafa Alvarez
If the offseason pursuit of free agent center DeAndre Jordan taught us anything, it's this: A deal is not
a deal if a roomful of buddies, some bags of takeout and a few goofy tweets can derail it.
10/26/2015 | By RAMONA SHELBURNE AND TIM MACMAHON ILLUSTRATIONS BY RAFA ALVAREZ
1: IT BEGAN WITH A PROMISE
The saga begins just after breakfast in DeAndre Jordan's Pacific Palisades home as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban makes his final pitch to the man he hopes will anchor his team for the next four years: You'll have a larger role in the offense. You can be the best center in basketball. It's Friday, July 3, six days before the end of the NBA's 2015-16 free agent moratorium, and Cuban is walking with Jordan around the backyard. "If what you're telling me is what you want, I will do my best to get you there," Cuban says. Jordan pauses, then delivers his verdict. "I love that. I'm going to Dallas." The group makes a toast. "They all had tequila," Cuban says later. "I had vodka. It was still morning."
2: BAD AT FREE THROWS, WORSE AT DECISIONS ...
Two days later, after verbally committing to a four-year, $80 million deal with the Mavs, Jordan is back home in Houston, working on free throws with his childhood coach, John Lucas. Jordan doesn't say much; he doesn't have to. "A lot can be said without saying a word," Lucas says. Uncertainty is setting in. Lucas asks Jordan, a guy he has known for 12 years and knows is notoriously impressionable, to answer one question: Did he say yes to Dallas for himself -- or to please others?
3: I'D LIKE TO PHONE A FRIEND ...
By the time Lucas tweets a photo of Jordan in the process of making 1,000 free throws, Jordan is on the phone with Clippers teammate and good friend Blake Griffin, telling him he's having misgivings about his decision to leave. The excitement of being recruited having worn off, he's questioning whether he'd simply gotten caught up in the process. I've built a life in LA. Do I really want to be the face of a franchise? Griffin tells Jordan he's made a commitment and needs to honor it and that they'll still be friends, even if they aren't teammates. But Jordan still seems unsettled.
4: CUBAN GETS A LITTLE ANTSY
By the next day, news is spreading. Cuban gets word of Jordan's uneasiness and immediately calls Chandler Parsons, a Mavs forward who's been a major part of Jordan's summertime recruitment. They hatch a plan: Parsons will fly to LA on Wednesday, the final day of the moratorium, in case Jordan returns there. Cuban will fly to Houston on Tuesday night. "I drove by his house on Tuesday night and no one answered," Cuban would say later. "He texted me saying he was on a date. I was like, 'Hit me up when you're ready.' That's how we left it at 11:43 p.m." Cuban then returns to the Westin Galleria hotel in Houston to await word from Jordan that will never come.
5: RELEASE THE EMOJIS!
While Cuban waits, Jordan is out with Griffin and has invited Clips coach Doc Rivers, owner Steve Ballmer, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Paul Pierce to join them at his house the next day. By the time ESPN's Marc Stein breaks the news of Jordan's change of heart, Rivers, Ballmer and Pierce are on their way to Houston; Redick is driving there from his offseason home in Austin; Paul is en route; Griffin is already there. So when Parsons tweets an emoji of a plane at 1:02 p.m. -- signaling he's flying in to salvage the Mavs' effort -- the Clippers are happy to play along. Redick tweets an emoji of a car. Paul tweets a banana and a boat. Griffin tries to throw everyone off by tweeting he's in Kauai. Pierce? A rocket ship. The Great Emoji War of 2015 has begun.
6: MOM'S GOT FOOD!
With the Clippers clan now inside Jordan's Houston mansion, Jordan's mom, Kimberly Jordan-Williams, picks up dinner for the team: bags of chicken from local fast-food joint Raising Cane's. Jordan-Williams had spoken with Rivers two days prior, on Monday, after Jordan's initial conversation with Griffin,to see whether her son's verbal commitment to Dallas had burned his bridge back to LA. She'd also voiced her displeasure at the Clippers' initial pitch to keep him (which included little about Jordan's role and more about the team's effort to get him more All-Star votes from China). Doc says that no bridges have been burned and asks for a second chance.
7: THE NO-LOCK LOCKDOWN
By midafternoon, Jordan has made his decision to return to LA. Through the remainder of the evening, as fans laugh at the absurdity of the Emoji War and Griffin -- in full goofball mode -- posting a photo of a chair purportedly blocking Jordan's door from the outside world, the atmosphere inside the house remains calm. Rivers watches summer league games. Ballmer talks about how often this happens in the business world. Redick, Paul, Pierce and Jordan play spades and video games. Jordan-Williams goes out to get more food. All there is to do now is wait until 11 p.m. (midnight ET), when free agents can officially sign with their new (or old) teams.
8: CAN WE JUST PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED?
Jordan doesn't respond to most of the Mavericks' attempts to contact him Wednesday, instead spending the day inside his home with the teammates and coaches he'd spurned five days earlier. (The role of Jordan's agent, Dan Fegan -- long accused by rival agents of being too cozy with Cuban and the Mavs -- remains shrouded in mystery, though after Jordan told him Tuesday night that he wanted to speak with the Clippers again, Fegan did fly to Houston on Wednesday afternoon, then flew back to LA hours later.) At 11:01 p.m., Jordan signs a four-year, $88 million max deal to return to LA. "Never in a million years did I think I'd have to quarantine the guy," Cuban laments later. Parsons will add: "This is something I've never seen in my career. When a man gives you his word ... It's just very unethical and disrespectful." Griffin, who's been in Houston since Monday, tweets a photo of a tent minutes before Jordan signs and the message: "Alright everybody goodnight!" Emojis 1, Mavericks 0.