Mavericks spurned again by another top free agent in DeAndre Jordan

The Lakers can breathe a little easier. They're not the only ones struggling to lure big-name free agents in recent years.

The Dallas Mavericks sustained a serious — and very public — setback when center DeAndre Jordan reneged on a verbal commitment to them and rejoined the Clippers.

It stunned the NBA world, shoving aside the unspoken rule that a promise is a promise, even if it's not actually in writing yet.

The league probably will have to look at this in depth, the NBA helplessly experiencing a good old-fashioned college football recruiting battle, where nothing is ever official until a signature is applied on letter-of-intent day.

Last week's alleged agreement with Jordan was an impressive score for the Mavericks. Then Jordan had doubts about ditching the only team he has known in his seven-year career and agreed to sign the Clippers' four-year deal, not the one from Dallas.

It has become an unfortunate pattern for the Mavericks.

Deron Williams was still a top-notch point guard when he chose Brooklyn instead of them in 2012. Then Dwight Howard chose Houston over Dallas in 2013.

The Mavericks have responded over the years by signing Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons, solid acquisitions but not franchise cornerstones. In fact, Ellis just agreed to terms with Indiana, leaving Dallas after two seasons.

The NBA has a headache because enterprising Mavericks owner Mark Cuban might be upset. And he might be right.

The league allows eight full days of wining and dining before its annual moratorium on deals ends, at which point players can turn verbal agreements into signed documents.

What's the difference between words and pen strokes? A lot, apparently.

The Mavericks' roster will be substantially weaker without Jordan. They allowed center Tyson Chandler to leave because they wanted Jordan to replace him. Chandler understood, telling reporters that "Business is business" before agreeing to a four-year, $52-million deal with Phoenix within the first 24 hours of free agency.

The Mavericks secured a commitment from Jordan a few days later on a four-year, $80-million deal. Or so they thought. Then they went out and got sharpshooter Wesley Matthews to help shore up their backcourt.

Now their only center is Satnam Singh Bhamara, a second-round draft pick from India.

There are few, if any, centers of note still unsigned, the Mavericks now forced to choose from a pool of Jordan Hill, Bismack Biyombo and other post players with massive holes in their game.

Clippers fans were ecstatic, adopting the "StayDre" hashtag on Twitter as they welcomed home Jordan.

Mavericks fans? Not so much.

"Clips [are] pathetic bro," wrote @scott_kohler41 on Jordan's Twitter feed. "Don't do this to Dallas. Stick to your agreement like a man. Be the focal point, not 3rd wheel. Stay."

But Jordan returned to the Clippers. Another rough turn in free agency for the Mavericks.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan

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