Cuban Miss-Out Crisis: Send the moratorium to the mortuary

Perhaps the experience of Mark Cuban and the Mavericks may make the NBA take a look at the league's moratorium in free agency.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

By Matt Zemek

Sometimes in life, a contentious issue leaves no room for two competing viewpoints to share the victory platform.

Some issues resolve themselves in a way that only one perspective can be right, allowable, or both. We see this in everyday life; we know what a “one-way” issue feels like.

The saga of DeAndre Jordan and Mark Cuban — enveloping the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks, and the NBA in a remarkable social-media whirlwind which captivated much of the nation on Wednesday — is not cut from “one-way” cloth.

Here’s what I mean:

My colleague Bart Doan effectively and eloquently made the case that this turnabout is not due to the NBA’s moratorium during free agency, the period in which players can pursue arrangements but cannot sign contracts. Bart argued that this story is the product of Jordan’s profound immaturity, amplified by the fact that as of early Thursday afternoon, Jordan STILL hadn’t called Cuban to offer a direct explanation.

Know something? Bart’s right — this is about Jordan’s immaturity. He weighed his decision. He had time to evaluate everything that was on the table. He had time to consider how much he valued his own teammates and his situation in Los Angeles. He had time to either express his unity with Chris Paul or his desire to make a clean break and start fresh. He made his intentions known. He made Dirk Nowitzki and Mr. Cuban happy. He created substantial reactions in two communities and the NBA at large.

Then he took it all back.

Sure — it’s not as though Jordan committed a crime, and if this is his greatest moral or ethical failing in life, he’ll have done very well as a person. It’s not as though this is the kind of thing we need to hang over Jordan’s head five years from now, especially if he grows up and seems to round into a levelheaded individual.

However, it should not be denied or swept under the rug: Jordan did something very immature, something which disrupted a lot of people’s lives and undercut a professional sports organization’s well-being. Jordan’s immaturity lies at the absolute center of all of this. Ergo, Bart is right.

This is where things get a little more complicated.

If we have all seen “one-way” issues emerge in the course of daily life, we have also seen various situations unfold in which a given rule or policy (or lack thereof) is exposed — not necessarily as evil or outrageous, but as something which enables outrageous events to take place. 

Someone exploits a loophole in a law. A strange play in a game shows why an obscure rule — or the lack of a rule — needs to be tweaked. The needs of television, or media access, or the emergence of technology create certain possibilities for the reform of rules or policies that could not have been imagined or foreseen 10 years ago.

This is part of the natural process of evolution — in sports or any other field of human endeavor. This is the way we evolve. We learn things. We don’t necessarily hold certain rules or policies responsible for allowing bad things to happen, but we do amend those rules to tighten up our structures of operation or governance such that doors get closed. Possibilities for disruptive events can be eliminated, not merely reduced.

Such is the case in terms of the need to eliminate the free-agency moratorium — it needs to be sent to the mortuary. Both sides can be right: DeAndre Jordan’s immaturity can be the central and primary cause of this whole mess and the unfortunate world the Mavericks and Mark Cuban inhabit today; yet, the moratorium can and should be sent to the grave.

No one on this green earth doesn’t like a little bit of theater in sports, a little bit of drama to spice up life. However, when theater flows from or feeds into realities that cause harm or disruption to individuals and communities — Dallas and the people employed by Cuban (they’re likely to miss playoff games and all the income which will accure from a playoff appearance) — it’s obvious that “theater” isn’t worth preserving.

Do away with the moratorium. Let a commitment be accompanied by the signing of a contract, instead of a mere profession or declaration. Let’s move on with our lives and not give players any real chance to do what DeAndre Jordan has done.

We can’t make every rule immune to the forces of human immaturity, but if there’s ever a chance to take certain possibilities off the table, why not do it? The NBA should act to kill this moratorium.

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