It was not too long ago that some intrepid blogger thought up what it would be like for teams only to have players from their designated areas. There was Kevin Durant on the Wizards, and LeBron James on the Cavaliers (things that could really happen), Derrick Rose on the Bulls (wait…) and Dwight Howard on the Hawks.
It is a fun experiment.
Except the experiment is becoming more and more real every day. The tug of home is undeniable and teams are salivating when a big-name player from their locales comes free. Sure players like Tracy McGrady came “home” in the past, shifting some measure of power. But it did not seem to have the same orchestration or years of planning as it does now. When McGrady, a young up-and-comer in Toronto, hungered to do more, his hometown Magic happened to have cap room that year.
Now, though, the Bulls cleared cap room to pair Chicago natives Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose together (that failed). The Cavaliers lost their home-grown star in LeBron James only to get him back through some good stroke of luck, homesickness, maturity and careful planning. No one thought it was a real possibility when that crazy fan came onto the court with the “Come Home LeBron” t-shirt.
Other teams have started dreaming already.
Kevin Durant will not be able to escape the Washington rumors for the next two years. Kevin Love had to dance around questions about Los Angeles (even though he was just born there) before the reported Cleveland deal came through for him. Carmelo Anthony had an infatuation with his birthplace in New York.
Teams though are already hypothetically targeting hometown guys.
A Toronto columnist talked about what the Raptors would have to do to pry Andrew Wiggins away from the Timberwolves. Then, there is Stephen Curry. He is still three years away from free agency and his comments about one day playing for the Hornets, back in his home state of North Carolina, has to have Hornets fans thinking. . . (via Jack Winter of DIME and The Doug Gottlieb Show):
Doug Gottlieb: LeBron went home to Cleveland… You’re a hardcore Carolina Panther fan. Charlotte is “home.” Have you guys ever talked about, ‘Hey that’d be cool to do – maybe I’ll do that some day’?
Steph Curry: I’ve always had thoughts about what it would be like playing at home and what it would be like. My dad played there for 10 years, and people around the greater Charlotte area, North Carolina did a lot for my family growing up. So you always think about it. Right now I feel like I have three years left on my deal so this won’t even be an issue for me for awhile.
I love the Bay Area and where we are as a team – trying to win a championship, that’s what it’s all about. Of course everybody dreams about or thinks about what it’s going to be like to play at home. And obviously if that opportunity comes along it’s a different discussion.
Very innocuous quote, sure. Of course, everyone would love to play at home. There is a comfort there. And three years is a long time — four is a really long time as LeBron James proved with Cleveland.
If the Hornets though start shuffling pieces to get him though . . .
The Hornets are not quite in that position though. They have a nice young core with Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson. That should be enough to be a very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.
Would you be willing to blow that up to get Curry?
The thing is, none of these players are leaving to join a rebuild project. These teams have to give those players something to leave for. This is why the Durant-to-Washington rumors seem so juicy. The Wizards are set up to have a great team to surround the league MVP should he leave — and should they have the room.
The Hornets might have to deconstruct things. But it could still be a better opportunity than the Warriors can offer. Especially with three more years of struggles down the road.
The bottom line remains: when you have a star player, the clock is ticking. Teams are scheming.