The frequency of big-name player movement throughout the NBA has never been higher. This summer alone, we saw the likes of Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Paul Millsap, and Dwight Howard change teams, and we’re only scratching the surface with that list. Last year, All-NBA level players like Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins found new homes. Nobody is safe these days.
Player movement like this inevitably creates emotional homecomings for those stars that spent a long portion of their career in one spot or even for those that had their best years in a brief time. Among those returns we’ve seen for the first time already this season were DeMarcus Cousins’ return to Sacramento and Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland. The NBA has built their nationally televised schedule around these moments, and it’s a smart business decision that also highlights how each team and player handles said homecoming.
DeMarcus Cousins made his highly-anticipated return to Sacramento on Thursday night, landing a prime national TV spot on TNT. This is the only way you’re getting the Pelicans vs. the Kings on national TV, and for good reason. Everyone wanted to see how, or if, the Kings would honor Cousins. Everyone wanted to see how, or if, Cousins would destroy the Kings. Cousins got his video tribute and dropped 40+ points on his old team in a win for New Orleans. It was a great night of NBA basketball.
In case you thought these sort of homecoming video tributes are frivolous, think again.
Despite the messy breakup, the Kings did the right thing by honoring Cousins for his contributions. He was the lone bright spot over the last decade of losing Kings basketball, but beyond that, this is a moment for Kings fans. You shouldn’t let behind-the-scenes emotions get in the way of the right thing, particularly when you consider the impact Cousins had on the community in Sacramento. His charitable work is well documented, and the hundreds of families whose lives he positively touched deserved this moment, and the Kings brass let them have it.
The Kings honoring Cousins highlighted the absence of video tribute packages for bigger-named NBA stars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. The Undeated’s Marc Spears noticed the stark different behind how the Kings, Thunder, and Cavaliers handled their star player returns, and asked Tony Allen, another player who received a video tribute when he returned to Memphis, what he thinks about this whole ordeal.
“That’s kind of being petty for the organization,” Allen said. “It’s premeditated. They thought about doing that before you even came back. To give [Durant’s No. 35] jersey away [to another player], a guy who has been in multiple MVP conversations, scoring champs, got those guys to the [2012 Finals] … And another guy like Kyrie, who won a championship for those people, it’s a sign of disrespect and a sign of pettiness.”
Allen makes a few salient points, but it’ll take a while to see if the Thunder or Cavaliers are actually impacted by their decision to skip out on the video tribute package. While Allen clearly feels a certain way about teams honoring former players, not everyone feels the same way. There were reportedly some in the Cavs locker room that weren’t happy with the plans to play a Kyrie tribute video (that the Cavs ended up passing on running) after his move to Boston following his trade request.