LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers staged the largest offseason NBA news conference I've ever seen, featuring seven players, the team's president/coach and an elephant.
The elephant in the room, of course, was the unavoidable topic of DeAndre Jordan's pump-fake free agency that led him to the Dallas Mavericks and back, a process that Clippers play-by-play man/event MC Ralph Lawler called "a circuitous route."
That was a more generous term than Jordan used himself.
"This whole fiasco was not my intent," Jordan said.
He could not have known he would set off an emoji battle on Twitter that went from players to teams to athletic apparel brands. He could not have been aware of the minute-by-minute updates of what was transpiring at his house. He could not have anticipated the Cyber Dust blasts from Mark Cuban.
Jordan shouldn't be blamed for allowing this event to become absurd because we should not overlook the absurdity of the basic premise: an almost unhealthy amount of interest in where a 26-year-old would decide to get paid tens of millions of dollars to play basketball.
In the end it will be recorded as a simple line in the transactions column: Clippers re-signed free-agent center DeAndre Jordan. All of the theatrics leading up to it will recede. What should not be forgotten, and what is actually the healthiest sign for the Clippers, is that the final decision was made for the right reason, specifically because it wasn't made for pride. Jordan didn't pick the team that promised him a more prominent role. He didn't stick with that decision because he was afraid of how it would look if he went back on his word. Those would have been prideful mistakes.
Pride is fine for individuals. It can ruin a team. I also differentiate between pride and ego. Ego is necessary. As John Thompson used to say, we wouldn't be talking about any of these guys if they didn't have big egos. Ego is overwhelming confidence that allows players to reach the NBA in the first place. It's what makes someone like DeAndre Jordan believe he was worthy of multiple contract offers north of $80 million.
Pride is the refusal to subjugate the ego at the necessary moment. Pride would be refusing to come out of the game when a better free throw shooter is what the team needs on the court. (And I think pride could be the biggest mental block for Jordan at the free throw line; he is too worried that he could let the team down and be the one to blame. His poor shooting is in his head, not in his form.)
The Mavericks made the appeal to Jordan's pride. It sounded so tempting at first. Then Jordan thought about how comfortable he was in Los Angeles, how far the organization had come since he was drafted in the second round in 2008, how much it would mean to stay with one team for his career.
"I realized what was important, and this team and this organization was," Jordan said. "And I'm happy that I'm here and that's why I'm here."
Once Doc Rivers heard from Jordan he didn't think Jordan was wavering about his decision. He thought Jordan knew he wanted to stay in Los Angeles, but Jordan didn't know how to get out of his pledge to play for Dallas. Rivers told Jordan not to worry about what everyone on the outside believed. Jordan took the message to heart.
Jordan looked uncomfortable at the beginning of the news conference. He knew the questions that were coming and he didn't enjoy having to answer them. When it was over, and team staffers passed out the newly redesigned uniforms for the players to hold up, Jordan beamed as he held his No. 6 jersey. After all the speculation, after all the chatter, he looked genuinely happy. That's what happens when you get past pride.