You would think the impending 2017 free agency of the NBA’s two-time reigning Most Valuable Player might be a big deal in the Bay Area, what with the winners of the previous six MVP awards all moving cities since 2014, but Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is not about to fuel that fire.
“I want to be back here,” Curry told the media when pressed about his future after the Warriors’ first practice of the season on Tuesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I like playing here. That’s it.”
Over the course of his current four-year, $44 million deal, Curry has been the NBA’s best bargain, as his $12.1 million salary this season is listed as the league’s 73rd-highest in 2016-17 — a smidgen more than Minnesota Timberwolves backup big Nikola Pekovic, whose injury-riddled career may be over.
Undoubtedly, the Warriors have a five-year max contract in the range of $176 million — or whatever shorter-term deal he may prefer in order to maximize his future earnings — waiting on the table for Curry. Other teams, sans Bird Rights, will line up to offer the four-year max worth roughly $131 million.
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In the past, that $45 million gap between what can be offered by a player’s current employer and all other suitors has always seemed like a significant enough chasm to prevent a superstar from leaving in free agency. However, look no further than LeBron James and Curry’s new Warriors teammate Kevin Durant for proof that guaranteed future earnings aren’t always the deciding factor for free agents.
James and Durant both changed teams on short-term deals in 2014 and 2016, respectively, allowing them to reclaim the max percentage of a higher salary cap the following summer. With players of their caliber — and Curry can count himself among those select few — the fear of injury isn’t even enough to chase the five-year max, since teams would still line up for their services despite most health risks.
Likewise, James and Durant own nine-figure shoe contracts, and while the exact figure for Curry’s deal with Under Armour hasn’t been publicized, we can only assume he’s doing OK for himself off the court after he re-upped with Under Armour last year through 2024 on a contract that includes equity stake in the apparel company. Such sponsorships can also ease any concerns a superstar player might have about their future earning power, even with another potential work stoppage looming in the NBA.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for Golden State, and James left the Miami Heat for his native Cleveland. While chasing a ring wouldn’t be Curry’s thing, considering his Warriors are the favorite to win their second title in three years, there’s at least the possibility that the former Davidson star could envision a future in his hometown of Charlotte.
“I’ve always had thoughts about playing at home, what it would be like,” Curry told The Doug Gottlieb Show in August 2014 — a month after James returned to Cleveland and 10 months before winning the 2015 championship with the Warriors. “My dad played there for 10 years, and people around the Greater Charlotte area in North Carolina have done a lot for my family growing up, so you always think about it.
“Right now I feel like I’ve got three years left on my deal, so this isn’t going to be an issue for me for a while. I love the Bay Area and where we are as a team trying to win a championship, and 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. Obviously if that opportunity comes along it’s a different discussion.”
Now that Golden State is cemented as a title contender for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to picture Curry in another uniform, even the purple, teal and white ones owned by Michael Jordan in his hometown. Then again, we just watched Durant walk from Oklahoma City a year removed from telling the media, “I’m one of those guys that would love to stick it out with one team my whole career.”
So, just as Durant was asked about his future at every stop on the NBA schedule’s 30-city tour in 2015-16, you can bet Curry will face similar questions this season, even if, as he added Tuesday, “My answer is not going to be any different all year. You can keep asking me, and I’ll have the same answer.”
Regardless of the sincerity behind his insistence that he wants to remain in Golden State, recent moves by his fellow former MVPs have opened the door for speculation until Curry puts pen to paper on a new contract. Granted, leaving is a long shot, but we’ve seen what he’s done with those before.
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