What's emerging from the press corps are wildly different scenarios as to what transpired in the negotiations between the Clippers and Elton Brand.
- Mark Heisler's headline reads, "Donald Sterling can't be blamed for Elton Brand's departure." Heisler maintains, "Whether that was Falk's influence or that Brand was impressed by the 76ers, he now seemed to be looking for a way to leave rather than a way to stay. Brand was slow in returning calls to Clippers officials. Whenever they made an offer, Falk would take it back to the 76ers." This isn't necessarily to say that the Clipper front office managed the negotiations with aplomb, but a credible veteran reporter.
- The Associated Press tells a different story: "Forced by an ultimatum Brand would not accept, the would-be movie mogul and two-time NBA All-Star instead opted to take his production east and see his name roll on the credits of Philadelphia's roster. The AP report claims, "The deal was nearly $20 million less than what Brand signed for in Philadelphia." This would mean the Clippers put only $60M on the table, a number that contradicts virtually every other account of the negotiations.
- In an on-air interview with ESPN, Brand says, "My intentions were totally to stay in L.A...But in the negotiations with my agent, David Falk, we asked for some things. And it fell through." Those things could include anything from a sixth year to a no-trade clause. If the AP is to believed, it may also have included additional millions.
- Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports supports the AP claim that the Clippers bungled the negotiations. "Once Mike Dunleavy pushed past David Falk and reached out to Elton Brand, appealed to his star’s sensibilities and sentimentality for his Clippers’ home, the belief was that the most cunning and cutthroat agent of them all decided to treat this end-around as an act of treason." But Wojnarowski also reports that the Clippers were willing to come correct, and that Falk's vindictiveness drove the proceedings. "Owner Donald Sterling was willing to renounce several players to nearly match the Sixers’ $82 million offer, but the Clips could never be sure that Falk ever presented Brand with the information."
- J.J. Adande takes a facile approach and ascribes the outcome to the stitching on the front of the uniform and the fact that "They're the Clippers," though he also allows for the fact that "[Brand] got selfish."
- Marty Burns at SI takes an even approach. He writes, " Ultimately, Brand made the decision himself. He is a grown man. He knows what he is doing." But Burns also offers this defense of Brand: "Brand never said he would definitely re-sign with the Clippers. He merely said it was his intention to do so. Maybe he was being slightly disingenuous. It certainly appears now as if he wanted to get out of L.A. all along." Whatever Brand's intentions, though, Burns concludes, "the bottom line is that the Clippers didn't get it done. Brand gave seven long years of sweat and blood to the Clippers. It's hard to blame him for wanting to play for an up-and-coming team closer to home, especially when that team made it clear how much it wanted him."
The time to extend Brand was last offseason, though it's entirely possible that Brand had every intention on testing free agency. The bottom line is that few people will ever have a full chronicle of Brand's negotiations with the Clippers over the years, though I tend to agree with Burns' conclusion that the onus ultimately rests with the team's executives. I won't fully excoriate them because I'm not furnished with the whole story. But coffee is for closers.
UPDATE: Lots of stuff in this analysis from Abrams at the LAT and this one from Ramona Shelburne at the Daily News. The backs-and-forth are starting to get ugly.
"After I supposedly gave him a take-it-or-leave-it offer, we raised the offer to $75 million and $81 million. They can spin this thing any way they want to try and spin it. The bottom line is, anything Elton ever wanted I did it for him. They stopped having communication with us more than a week ago."
"I can show text messages to Falk and all those things, (that we) made a verbal deal. You don't have to keep a verbal deal. It's not binding. You can say, 'You know what? I changed my mind I want to go to the East Coast because my wife's family is there. Or it's easier to make the playoffs. Or I can be an All-Star in the East as opposed to the West.' But just say it: We had a verbal deal and I just changed my mind."
Brand reiterated that he felt the Clippers' first offer was a take-it-or-leave it demand: "That's exactly what it was. Or that's what they said it was. And then, they came back and matched. But it's like, 'OK, do that the first time.' "
"That could have been a good team and a real special team. But sometimes, enough is enough...I wish them well. They're not bad people and this isn't like a get-out-of-jail card."
Falk "What you want when you're a franchise player you want to feel that you're wanted," Falk said. "And I think it was very disturbing to feel that ... it was basically accept it or don't accept it. "That's a very difficult position to accept when you're a player of Elton's stature and you've done as much for the franchise as Elton has over the past seven years. I think that set in motion a chain of events that led us here today."
"In free agency, everything is compressed...You don't have time to play ping-pong. When they said $70 [million], I took it for face value. It was too much of a sacrifice, that's all."
Falk said that he found out, belatedly, that the Clippers had been negotiating with Brand without his agent. "I didn't know it then, I know it now...I know it after the fact. It's probably the reason that the deal fell apart."
"What you want when you're a franchise player you want to feel that you're wanted," Falk said. "And I think it was very disturbing to feel that ... it was basically accept it or don't accept it.
"That's a very difficult position to accept when you're a player of Elton's stature and you've done as much for the franchise as Elton has over the past seven years. I think that set in motion a chain of events that led us here today."
The story also includes these impressions: "Others in the Clippers organization, including some of Brand's former teammates, believed a deal had been locked in place with him, especially after a verbal agreement was reached with free-agent point guard Baron Davis. Brand had text messaged teammates that he was excited about the prospects of the team, according to NBA sources who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about player movements."