I don’t know much about hockey, but I know the game isn’t easy on one’s body. So whenever I see an NHL player who’s been in the League for 15 or 20 years, it always amazes me.
Earlier this week the New Jersey Devils inked 27-year-old wing Ilya Kovalchuk to a 17-year contract worth $102 million. SEVENTEEN years. When the deal runs out, Kovalchuk would be 44 years old and likely a living legend with Devils fans. (Note: The NHL rejected the contract on Tuesday for salary-cap reasons, but the Devils and Kovalchuk can still renegotiate another deal.)
Nobody in the NBA is ever getting a 17-year deal, but I was thinking of some NBA guys who are locked into their station and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Not old guys like Kurt Thomas or Zydrunas Ilgauskas, whose next NBA stop will probably be their last, but young stars (27 and under) who will have opportunities to choose their destiny down the line but will ultimately call one franchise home.
1. Derrick Rose — He’s from Chicago, he grew up dreaming of playing for the Bulls, and now he’s the starting point guard of the Bulls. Having survived the Summer of LeBron (and D-Wade) with his franchise-centerpiece status still intact, Rose isn’t going anywhere. Plus, he saw how Cleveland fans treated LeBron when he left.
2. Andrew Bynum — He’s been involved in trade rumors before; like this summer when L.A. was thought to have a shot at landing Chris Bosh, and in ’07 when Kobe kindly suggested the Lakers “ship his ass out.” But I doubt Bynum will ever get traded. He’s a young, 7-foot, potential All-Star center, and teams don’t give those guys away. From his end, L.A. is the best place for Bynum to thrive. He likes the lifestyle, and the most glitzy franchise in sports could be his so long as he keeps improving and if Kobe ever retires.
3. Rajon Rondo — He’s already the Celtics’ best player from a production standpoint, and if he sticks around a few more years, he’ll be the leader and have top billing in the post-Pierce era. They love Rondo in Boston, and with his naturally introverted and guarded personality, he won’t be as famous or command as many endorsements playing anywhere else.
4. Rodney Stuckey — As long as Joe Dumars is around, Stuckey’s spot on the roster is secure. He hasn’t yet lived up to the high expectations placed on his shoulders when Chauncey Billups was traded, but barring injury, Stuckey will always be talented enough to make the Pistons believe his breakout is right around the corner. And, to be bluntly honest, I don’t know how many teams will actively pursue Stuckey in a trade given his mysterious issues with headaches and dizziness on the court.
5. Brandon Roy — In Portland he’s still close to his Seattle hometown, but not so close where he’d feel the need to get away and spread his wings. B-Roy is the signature nice guy for a nice-guy organization where the fans adore the players and the front office has enough money to continually put solid pieces around him.
6. Kevin Durant — Once upon a time, KD was like LeBron; everybody assumed he’d bounce the hell out of Oklahoma City as soon as possible and move to a bigger market. But Durant has fallen in love with his new home, and signed a five-year extension earlier this summer. Durant isn’t Hollywood. He likes having some privacy and is loyal and tight with his group of teammates/friends. He also has an active and smart management group working to build a contending Thunder team around him for years to come.
7. Tyreke Evans — Not much different than Durant. Tyreke is a low-key dude who can appreciate the small-town charm of Sacramento, and has already built a close-knit group of friends on his team. His family is loyal and will follow him wherever he needs them, so I don’t think he’ll necessarily feel compelled to go back to the East Coast when he’s a free agent.
8. Stephen Curry — You can view it one of two ways: Growing up with an NBA father who played for five teams made Steph more prone to a nomadic lifestyle, or it made him more likely to set down roots in one place and stay there. The Warriors have made Curry their headliner, he plays in front of passionate fans every home game, and with the old ownership/management on its way out, the new owners may not drive Steph into a disgruntled state.
9. Josh Smith — Atlanta native under contract through 2013, by which time the Hawks will have peaked and won a championship, or will be in a transitional period where J-Smoove may be the best (if not the highest-paid) player on the team.
10. Dwight Howard — Orlando doesn’t have a great track record of keeping their superstars happy (Shaq, T-Mac), but they’ve rolled out the red carpet for Dwight and won’t let him get away if they can help it. As long as he’s making good money and has a solid team around him, there’s no reason to believe he’ll leave. Florida will always be a popular destination for free agents, so there’s no reason Dwight shouldn’t be the anchor of a contending team for the rest of his career.