The Standoff

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Blake Griffin, Forward / Los Angeles Clippers - The Players' Tribune

I’m looking at Paul Pierce, sizing him up, looking for a tell. He’s looking at J.J. Redick. J.J.’s looking at me. We’re all sitting in a circle, holding up our phones in DeAndre Jordan’s elegant living room. We’re all in disbelief as Twitter is going mad with leaks and rumors.

“Who’s the rat?!”

I look at J.J.

Hmmm. This guy didn’t come down to Houston on the plane with the rest of the team. He drove down from Austin. Two hours alone in a car? That’s a long time to sit and plot. Smells funny to me.

“Are you the rat, J.J.?”

J.J. says he’s not the rat. In fact, he thinks there’s something suspicious about me. I flew down a day before the rest of the team from L.A. So why was I posting pictures from Hawaii on Twitter? He’s wondering, Do I have something to hide?

“You went for that little drive earlier. Are you the rat, Blake? Are you the rat?”

I say I’m not the rat.

Paul’s looking at … well, okay, actually, Paul has kind of lost interest and turned back to an episode of Naked and Afraid. But now, J.J. and CP3 are looking at me, eyes locked on my plate of delicious chicken tenderloins and thick-sliced sesame seed Texas Toast. Mathias, one of our assistants, swivels around in a barber’s chair in the corner of the room and eyes me up suspiciously.

“Then how do they know, man? How does Twitter know about the chicken fingers?!”

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He had a point. I was stunned.

For most of Wednesday, July 8, a lot of the information coming from social media on DeAndre Jordan’s contract talks was pretty far off-base. When we woke up that morning, a few of the Clippers players and staff took a charter bus to a hotel, to meet with DeAndre. It was the business stuff — the pitch, or re-pitch in this case. I jokingly tweeted a photo of Hawaii, and some emojis of a plane, helicopter and a car in response to Chandler Parsons’ airplane tweet. But the truth is that I was already in Houston. DeAndre had been having doubts about his decision to go to Dallas since Monday.

By Tuesday morning, I knew he was really struggling with it. He really didn’t want to disappoint people, but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. We text every day. It’s not always about basketball. Mostly it’s about life. I’m his friend above all else. I stuffed some clothes into a bag, ran through LAX and got on the first flight to Houston. My intention wasn’t to go down and sell DeAndre on the Clippers. We promised each other a long time ago that we’d never do that stuff. I just wanted to be there for my friend and hear him out.

When we had dinner on Tuesday night — hand to God — we probably talked for five minutes about basketball. I didn’t want to pressure him. It would’ve felt weird. You know how it is with your good friends. I just told him why I thought he was a good fit in L.A., then I said, “Look, man, whatever you want to do, I’ll still be your friend.” And I genuinely meant it. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. It’s a lot more complicated than picking a jersey. There’s all kinds of pressure from friends, family, agents and people who you just want to make happy.

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DeAndre just wanted to clear the air and talk with everybody — which is something we should have done a month ago, but that’s life. Sometimes you don’t say what should be said. Everybody was scheduled to come to Houston the next day for a meeting. We went back to DeAndre’s house and watched Shallow Hal on basic cable (shout out Tony Robbins) and then went to bed.

By Wednesday morning, when the emojis started flying everywhere, the headlines were: CLIPPERS DESCEND ON HOUSTON. DEANDRE LOCKED IN HOME. CHRIS PAUL ABSENT FROM MEETING. MARK CUBAN DRIVING AROUND HOUSTON SEARCHING FOR DEANDRE.

All of it was wrong. When people were tweeting “Sources: Clippers to meet with DeAndre in the next 3 hours,” we were already back at DeAndre’s house and I was nodding off watching a Clippers Summer League game on the couch. When I woke up an hour later with drool on the pillow, my phone was a bloodbath of notifications. People were literally tweeting things like, “DeAndre is a grown-ass man! Stop holding him hostage!” and “You should all be arrested for this! I’m calling the cops!”

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To be honest, the whole thing was pretty boring. It was like a super laid back family party. Some people were watching TV. Some people were playing video games. After a while, I hopped in the car and drove aimlessly around Houston for an hour just to kill time. When I got back to the house, we were sitting around waiting for 11 p.m. so DeAndre could officially sign. That’s when someone read a tweet that shook us to the core.

“Yo … Hold up. How do they know we’re eating Raising Cane’s?”

Raising Cane’s is a fast-food restaurant that specializes in chicken fingers, crinkle cut fries and Texas Toast. It’s incredibly delicious. This is not sponsored content. I love it. DeAndre’s mom picked up like 50 bags to feed all these people who were lounging in the house. Ballmer gave us his credit card and was like, “Alright, anything you guys want. Anything.”

So, naturally, we picked chicken fingers.

Some ace reporter got a hold of this red-hot information and passed it along to their Twitter followers. It was unbelievable. Impossible. How could they know something like that? We all looked around the room. The call was coming from inside the house.

Allegations flew around. Peoples’ phones were inspected. It was like the end of Reservoir Dogs but in a really tastefully designed living room with a bunch of dudes wearing sweatsuits. In the end, we all decided to eat some more chicken and let it slide. It was just a big joke to pass the time. We were starting to go stir crazy after nine hours.

At 11:01 p.m., someone came in with the contract papers and DeAndre signed. Manhugs were exchanged. Then we all headed outside to the bus that was waiting to take us to the airport. As I was leaving, I turned to DeAndre. He seemed happy for the first time in a while. I was like, “Welp, that was crazy. At least now you know how much I love you. I ran through LAX like an insane person for you, bro. Let us never speak of it again.”

We got on the bus. Ballmer said some stuff. Doc said some stuff. Then we all just looked at each other and nodded like, Alright, let’s do this.

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