Broken Deals Not Uncommon This Offseason

The vast majority of verbal agreements between players and NBA teams turn into signed contracts, but, as we learned with DeAndre Jordan and the Mavericks this summer, that’s not always the case. Even when a player does sign a contract, he often still must pass a physical, and sometimes red flags show up on the exam, prompting the team to void the signing, as happened with the Kings and Luc Mbah a Moute later in July. A physical also led to the dissolution of the Heat’s deal with Briante Weber, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel reported Friday, though it’s unclear if Weber ever put pen to paper.

In any case, this offseason has provided no shortage of reasons why it’s never certain that a player will suit up for a team until he actually does. We’ll look back case by case:

  • DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks — The much publicized change of heart for the league’s leading rebounder took place during the July Moratorium, when the Mavs were powerless to sign him and keep him from rejoining the Clippers instead. The move clearly disappointed Mavs owner Mark Cuban, but he doesn’t blame the moratorium for his team’s misfortune, as Tim MacMahon and Kevin Arnovitz of noted at the time.
  • Richard Jefferson to the Mavericks — Dallas reportedly gave its other signees the opportunity to back out once Jordan did, and Jefferson took the team up on its offer, signing with the Cavs instead. Unlike Jordan, Jefferson received Cuban’s blessing before proceeding with his about-face.
  • Chuck Hayes to the Rockets — In this case, it was the team, not the player, that broke off the deal, given that agent Calvin Andrews said he and Hayes were “extremely upset and disapponted” when it fell apart. The Rockets face a hard cap if they sign No. 32 pick Montrezl Harrell to a market value deal, as I explained in detail, so I’d speculate that a desire for more breathing room against that would-be cap was behind the team’s decision to back out of the partially guaranteed arrangement. Hayes instead signed to join Jordan with the Clippers.
  • Christian Wood to the Rockets — Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported in late June, shortly after Wood went undrafted, that the power forward would join the Rockets on a partially guaranteed deal, but plans appeared to change after the offseason began in earnest in July. Reports threw Wood’s status with the Rockets into question when the team reached deals with four others for camp, and his signing with the Sixers made it clear he won’t be in Houston. Just what went awry is unclear, but I would speculate the Rockets called it off for the same cap-related reasons I believe were at play with Hayes.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute to the Kings — Sacramento went so far as to sign the veteran combo forward, but front office chief Vlade Divac said later that a shoulder issue emerged in Mbah a Moute’s physical, prompting the team to void the contract, which had been worth $1.55MM for one season. Mbah a Moute’s agents and players union officials reportedly dispute Sacramento’s medical claims, and the union was apparently to have filed a grievance.
  • Briante Weber to the Heat — In contrast to the situation involving Mbah a Moute, Weber’s camp doesn’t appear upset about the undrafted combo guard’s inability to pass a physical. Instead, agent Bill Neff expressed interest in having Weber join the Heat’s D-League team at some point. Concern over Weber’s readiness comes as no surprise, since he tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee this past January.
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