I don’t think Stephen Curry is going to sign with the Hornets next summer. Stars just don’t leave champions without extenuating circumstances. But the Warriors just lost one of the most gut-wrenching playoff series of all time. The chemistry of the team is in serious jeopardy as emotion leader Draymond Green may well have cost them a championship and the greatest team of all time title because he couldn’t stop himself from kicking someone in the nuts. And the Golden State roster is very much in flux.
The Warriors are going to be aggressive this summer. Kevin Durant is in play and so is Dirk Nowitzki, but neither seems likely to come. Al Horford probably would if they asked, but their interest in him is unknown. Nic Batum will get a look on the high end of the potential Harrison Barnes replacements; Marvin Williams, Luol Deng, Evan Turner and Solomon Hill make up the rest of the spectrum. Barnes and Festus Ezeli could both be gone and in order for the Dubs to create max cap space, both will have to be along with some combination of Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
Next year’s Golden State roster is going to look different, and for the first time in the Steve Kerr era, the front office is going to be in attack mode. This is the first time it really feels like the Warriors need something, that they can’t just waltz into the season with the same group and expect to win a championship. And that raises all sorts of questions about both their past and future.
Now that LeBron has topped the 73-win Warriors, do we have to consider some sort of asterisk for the 2015 championship version? Did the Cavs provide some sort of blueprint for the rest of the league to beat this Golden State team? Has it now been definitively proven that you can’t win a championship without paying at least some lip service to two-pointers? Did Cleveland just win the championship because the road through the Eastern Conference was so much easier?
We’ll again throw out the disclaimer that if the Warriors win the championship next season none of this matters. But if they don’t, everything in the above paragraph comes into play.
Would Curry wonder if his Golden State squad was even capable of winning a championship without help from the injury gods? Is there something they can realistically do to counter defenses that switch as relentlessly as they do knowing that nobody on their roster can take advantage of it close to the basket? Would Curry be better off on a team with a more diverse skill set? Would Curry have ever gotten hurt if he played in the East?
Tomes could be filled with answers to even one of those questions. But for the first time since the Warriors became the Warriors, they don’t feel like… well… the Warriors. They feel like just another team.
To Curry, the Hornets probably don’t feel like just another team. He was on the court when LeBron won a championship for his hometown. He has to know how special that would feel, and as he already has a ring, he wouldn’t exactly be risking his legacy to join a weaker team in making the jump.
How many players get the chance to wear their dad’s jersey? Same number, same city, same team? How many players get the chance to have their dad announce their games? How many players get a chance to do that while playing with their brother (and make no mistake, the Hornets will aggressively try to add Seth at some point before July of 2017 to try to entice Steph further)?
Golden State doesn’t have the same sentimental attachment, and as Ethan Sherwood Strauss noted on his appearance on The Lowe Post, Curry’s relationship with Joe Lacob is far from infallible. When the owner on the other line is Michael Jordan, well, that presents quite a problem. If Lacob no longer has sentiment and his team’s basketball prospects are in doubt, well, what is there to sell Curry on committing to the Warriors for the rest of his career?
This is an ongoing conversation we’ll spend the next year having. There are too many variables for any answer to present itself yet. But after what just happened in the NBA Finals coupled with his team’s uncertain future this is finally in play. Stephen Curry might actually decide to leave the Warriors for the Hornets.