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Last Minute Travel Costs – NBA Edition

Sometimes you can’t book a business trip weeks in advance. A client calls, a meeting materializes, and suddenly you have no choice but to be on the first flight tomorrow. Last-minute travel is expensive, but what can you do?

That unfortunate truth also applies to the very select and very tall subset of business travelers whose business is playing basketball. An NBA team plays a minimum of 41 road games during the course of a season – more if it makes the playoffs, in which case advance travel planning becomes nearly impossible thanks to the wonderfully unpredictable nature of sports. Heroic comebacks, freak injuries, impossible buzzer beaters: these things affect wins and losses, as well as provisional travel itineraries.

At the end of a long season, there’s probably nothing a baller would rather do than relax, pursue his hobbies (tinkering under the hood of his imported luxury vehicle, pursuing crossover star-status as a rapper, clubbing), and generally enjoy a few months of not having to squeeze his extraordinarily large body into an airplane seat. But alas, true champions can’t afford to take a day off.

Just ask the members of the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, who on Thursday found themselves in a surreal off-court competition in the form of a cross-country race. The prize? A chance to sign free-agent center DeAndre Jordan. Earlier in the week Jordan had reached an agreement with the Mavericks that would have paid him $80 million over four years, but apparently he had second thoughts before signing his contract, and notified his former team, the Clippers, that he could be wooed back to Los Angeles. As soon as news broke that the leading rebounder in the NBA was once again meeting with potential suitors, key members of the Mavericks and Clippers hightailed it to Jordan’s hometown of Houston. This being 2015, the whole spectacle played out on Twitter, with players tweeting out travel-themed emojis to show how they planned on making the journey.

We decided to produce a (very rough) estimate of how much the Clippers and Mavs spent on their last-minute trips, and how much they could have saved with Rocketrip.

Dallas Mavericks

Chandler Parsons – The small forward has been busy lobbying potential teammates this off-season, and was credited as one of the reasons why Jordan initially decided to come to Dallas. When he learned that his prize recruit might be slipping away, Parsons dropped everything – which, based on his Instagram, was partying in Las Vegas with his supermodel girlfriend – tweeted out a plane emoji, and jetted off to win back DeAndre. Parsons is a solid player (Career 3-point shooting percentage of 37.3%), but his biggest contribution to basketball history might very well be starting the Great Emoji War of 2015.

  • Flight budget: $1,230, based on roundtrip ticket cost from Las Vegas to Houston.
  • Flight spend: Unknown. ESPN really needs to steps up its reporting because in the absence of any definitive information on Chandler Parson’s actual flight spend, we have to assume it was in line with his Rocketrip budget. After all, Rocketrip’s budgeting algorithm produces the most accurate estimate of trip costs based on real time market data.
  • Hotel budget: $160.
  • Hotel spend: $0. Parsons spent the first three years of his career playing for the Houston Rockets, so it’s likely he was able to stay with a friend.
  • TOTAL SAVINGS: $160.

Mark Cuban – The Mavs owner and Shark Tank judge flew from Dallas to Houston to get some emergency face time with Jordan, but supposedly DeAndre froze him out, leaving Cuban to wander the city in search of his elusive seven-foot target.

  • Flight budget: $480, based on roundtrip ticket cost from Dallas to Houston.
  • Flight spend: Unknown, but given that Cuban once admitted in an interview that he “can’t be without” his private jet, it’s unlikely that he flew economy.
  • Hotel budget: $160.
  • Hotel spend: $0. Cuban’s a savvy business man, not the type to waste money on a hotel room when he has a perfectly good private jet to sleep on.
  • TOTAL SAVINGS: $160 (?).

Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin – Blake and DeAndre were one of the best front-court tandems in the league, so when Blake saw a chance to win back his fellow big-man, he wasn’t going to let travel complications stand in his way.

As of this moment, Rocketrip is unable to generate custom budgets for helicopter trips. However, we can give Blake an estimate of what the flight, rental car, and hotel portion of his trip should cost.

  • Flight budget: $900.
  • Flight spend: Unknown. One of the most recognizable stars in the league, Blake likely flew private and blew past his flight budget. But we’ll give him credit for jet-pooling with two colleagues who also made the trip to Houston: Doc Rivers, the Clippers coach, and Steve Ballmer, the team’s multi-billionaire owner.
  • Hotel budget: $160.
  • Hotel spend: $0. Blake and the rest of his Clippers teammates saved on the cost of a hotel by staying with a friend. Which friend? None other than DeAndre Jordan! Apparently the prodigal center’s teammates were so desperate to win him back that they refused to leave his house until he agreed to re-sign with L.A. Blake even tweeted a joking (?) picture of a door barricaded by a chair.

The plan worked: DeAndre ultimately decided to stay a Clipper, and everyone saved on last-minute travel costs.

  • Rental car budget: $50.
  • Rental car spend: $50. Safe to assume he rented a Kia?
  • TOTAL SAVINGS: $160.

JJ Redick – During the off-season, Redick lives in Austin – less than an hour’s flight from Houston. But as indicated by his car emoji, Redick chose to drive instead of flying, which would have earned him some big Rocketrip rewards.

  • Flight budget: $500.
  • Flight spend: $0.
  • Hotel budget: $160.
  • Hotel spend: $0. Free accomodations at Casa de DeAndre.
  • TOTAL SAVINGS: $660.

<Chris Paul – Paul is a basketabll genius, though a tempermental one. The point guard’s demanding on-court leadership style was one of the reasons cited for Jordan wanting out of L.A. in the first place. Paul didn’t make the trip to Houston, because he was on vacation. Specifically, he was vacationing on a banana boat, surrounded by Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and Gabrielle Union.


Technically, this falls outside Rocketrip’s business travel purview. But how could we not mention it?

Final Score

Based on our estimate, the Clippers get the “W”. They saved a total of $820 on their last-minute travel, compared to the Mavs’ $320. Plus, they convinced DeAndre to come back to Los Angeles.

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