At a certain point, the Brand story will run its natural course here in Los Angeles. I hope that time is soon. But it's probably worth noting Jonathan Abrams' piece in this morning's New York Times on Brand:
[Brand] was on the verge [of re-signing with the Clippers], focusing on the fine print with Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy, who also had the role of general manager, a title recently made official by the team’s parting with its longtime vice president for basketball operations, Elgin Baylor.
Dunleavy negotiated directly with Brand. They agreed on money and years, but became stuck at a point for an early termination option, a clause that would allow him to become a free agent earlier.
“My last correspondence with him was July 1 at 7:57 p.m.,” Dunleavy recently said in a telephone interview. “He texted, ‘Hey Coach, I have some problem with some language and the E.T.O.’
“By the next morning, I texted him back and said I got it taken care of and to call me. I haven’t heard from him since.”
At that point, Brand recalled, his agent, David Falk, told him: “Turn your phone off. You’re not talking to them anymore. I’m your agent. Let me do my job.”
Brand cut off communication with everybody from the Clippers. Falk took charge of Brand’s negotiations and, after entertaining an offer from the Warriors, Brand signed a five-year, $82 million deal with the 76ers.
The signing ignited a war of words between Dunleavy and Falk, through radio waves and newspapers. It put a mark on Brand’s good-guy reputation in the N.B.A.
“It wasn’t an issue of him leaving,” Dunleavy said. “It was an issue how Elton left. To me, it was that he didn’t even call or explain it after the time we had together. I basically did all I could for the guy. He could have called me up and said this is better for my family and I would have said O.K. What could I do with that?
“After being with somebody for five years and being as close as I thought I was with someone and a guy gives his word, that’s all it would have taken as far as I’m concerned. It’s just one of those types of things.”
Brand acknowledged that he had not spoken with Dunleavy since.
“After that, it was kind of he-said, she-said; I didn’t know what was true,” Brand said. “But Coach Dunleavy was the best pro coach I played for. I got the furthest in my career and I was an All-Star under him. I hope it’s water under the bridge because I think he’s a good coach and a good person.”
Most fans might be inclined to blame Falk. But agents are intrinsically amoral, and Falk's actions don't fall outside the boundaries of what's typical in pro sports -- though this was clearly an atypical situation. I suspect that Elton's recollection of Falk's imperative to cut off all contact with the Clippers is probably accurate. Whether that absolves Elton of doing the right thing by Dunleavy, the Clippers organization, people who like the Clippers, Baron Davis, etc, depends on how much self-management and loyalty you demand from the pro athletes you support. Likewise, whether you blame the Clippers' organization depends on how much competence you demand from your team to close deals, irrespective of whether agents act like agents and players act like players -- and whether you consider these factors to be beyond the organization's control.