In the wake of another face of a franchise abruptly being traded away, the Dallas Mavericks represent a small minority of teams who demonstrate loyalty toward their superstar.
Chris Paul was already packing his bags for Houston. 4x All-NBA forward Blake Griffin walked into his free agency pitch meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers. He likely had the iconic words of The Clash – “Should I stay or should I go?” – replaying in his ears like an old scratched record with a groove stuck on repeat.
The Clippers pulled out all of the stops. Griffin’s #32 jersey was raised into the rafters by team employees as a choir sang in the background.
The PA announcer announced Griffin as “a lifelong Clipper.” The team employees even questionably sported these shirts comparing the forward to some of the most influential historical figures ever:
Six months later Griffin is traded to the Detroit Pistons, a team not even currently in the playoff picture. It’s a business they’ll say. “It’s the nature of the beast.” Whatever happened to being true to your word?
While those claims are inarguable and the team needs to always do what is best for their fans, it is hard not to feel bad for players like Griffin who dedicate so much time and effort to a community and then abruptly get shipped off. Fans would have burned his jersey and called him a traitor if he signed somewhere else this summer.
Apparently, the “it’s a business” defense is a one-way street. Griffin is not the only recent example of this, of course.
Isiah Thomas finished 5th in MVP voting last season yet he was kicked to the curb by Boston despite playing in the playoffs both injured and immediately after the sudden death of his sister in a car accident.
DeMarcus Cousins was dealt by Sacramento after publicly declaring his loyalty to the franchise earlier that season. Thomas even had his jersey burned by insensitive, small-minded fans despite having no say in his departure.
The Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki have remained loyal to each other from day one. They have done right by one another. This fact is special and near-and-dear to the hearts of every Mavericks fan.
Yet, Dirk is not the only player to have received the players-first privilege from owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson.
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In the summer of 2015, the Mavericks allowed veteran Richard Jefferson to go back on his commitment to sign in Dallas in order to join LeBron James in Cleveland in search of a title.
That same summer, the Mavericks rewarded Wes Matthews with a $13 million pay raise (over his previously agreed upon contract) after DeAndre Jordan went back on his agreement to sign in Dallas. This was a sign of Dallas’ good will towards Matthews since he was now joining a much different roster situation without the star center.
Just last year the Mavericks agreed to buy out veteran guard Deron Williams’s contract instead of trading him to give the Dallas-native a chance to freely choose whatever contender he’d like to join mid-season.
Of course this does not mean the Mavericks are not actively involved in trade discussions. Trades are a necessary avenue for team building and players understand that. The point is that when given the opportunity, the Mavericks make an effort to do things the right way.
Mark Cuban lent JJ Barea the team jet this summer to bring much-needed supplies to Puerto Rico and to bring back residents in danger after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The entire team was rightfully incredibly supportive of Dallas legend Devin Harris after his brother, Bruce, died following a car accident in October. The Mavericks are more than a team, they’re a tight-knit family.
Whether or not it goes noticed by players and agents of opposing teams, I am unsure. However, I truly believe that what goes around, comes around.
Dallas fans should be proud of the way the front office and coaches treat their players; like human beings not mere assets. Hopefully some of that positive karma will result in a quick rebuild and eventually another chance at a title for the Dallas Mavericks.