Friday, July 11, 2008

Brand Losing The Blame-Game

Remember in "Jerry Maguire" when Cush (the star football player) and his father met with Jerry (the agent) in their living room and Cush's dad said that he doesn't sign contracts, but he shook hands with Jerry and said, "what you have is my word, and it's stronger than oak"? And just as the two shook hands, they flashed to a closeup of the hands coming together and you got the feeling that everything was going to be ok - or it was going to go horribly wrong - but there was no in between.

And then later, Cush's dad signed a contract with Jerry's arch-enemy Bob Sugar the night before the NFL draft. And Cush said that he was suffering from Cush-lash because he had been seeing his own picture everywhere he went. Right now Clipper fans are suffering from Cush-lash.

In the he-said-they-said battle of what really happened the week before Elton Brand signed with the 76ers, we may never know what really happened, but we can't stop hearing about it. When Brand signed, he was a little vague about what had happened but it seemed to be that he had wanted to stay a Clipper, but that he didn't hear from them, and that there had been no verbal deal made.

Clipper head coach Mike Dunleavy was adamant Thursday that the Clippers had gone out of their way to contact Brand, that they offered more money than Philly, that they were willing to offer one more year to the deal, they did not offer a take-it-or-leave-it deal, that they had upheld their end of the handshake deal they'd made and went out and gotten Baron Davis, and most importantly he was adamant that there had been a handshake deal...and Brand and his agent wouldn't return their calls. He went so far as to show that he had text messages on his phone from Brand confirming how excited his was for next year and said that other players had similar texts.

How can these sides, which had been so close and friendly only days earlier, be so far apart on what happened? The common thought right now is that just like Cush would probably never have turned his back on Jerry if not for his dad's interference, Brand would likely not have turned his back on the Clipper without his agent's interference.

The problem with this theory is that Brand wound up signing the cheapest deal offered to him. Sure agents want to get their names out there and Brand's agent did that by making this story blow up as big as it did. But they also want to get their names out there showing athletes that they will make a lot of money if they sign with him. And since the agent gets a percentage of the deal, they will go for the biggest deal possible. Why would the agent have hurt his own rep and taken a smaller cut?

I am ok with a guy deciding to go to a team closer to his home to raise his family. I am ok with a guy going to a team on which he feels he has a better chance to win, despite that his new team is worse than the one he left. Those are the two big reasons that Brand supposedly left. The problem I have is that Brand never gave those reasons, reporters suggested them.

Baron Davis was charming and laughing and said a few times in his Clipper press conference that he never thought of backing out on the Clippers because he had given his word. He even looked directly into the camera and said it with a wink. Davis got where he wanted and made the money he wanted, so he can't be too upset, but at the same time, he got screwed by his friend just like the rest of us did.

Sports is business and Elton Brand did not owe anybody anything. He can move his family any place in the world that he wants. People change their minds. But for him to say that there was no verbal deal and that it isn't his fault is insulting to Davis, to the Clippers and to the fans. He's always been a good buy and now it is backfiring because he doesn't have the a-hole in him to just come out and say, "I did tell them I was going to come back, but I decided that I didn't want to be there anymore and changed my mind."

Davis spoke his mind and explained his story. Dunleavy emotionally spoke his mind and explained the Clippers' story. Brand hasn't said a word besides almost blaming the Clippers for not bowing down far enough in reverence to him. They let their leading scorer go without a goodbye and signed the one free agent Brand had said he wanted, then offered him a more lucrative and longer deal than the team he went to did. How much more respect could they have shown?

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