After a road game in Sacramento nearly two weeks ago, I believe more than ever that we'll see Ryan Anderson in a Kings uniform come next season. We learned prior to the trade deadline that the Pelicans had expectations the Flamethrower could leave New Orleans during the upcoming free agency period. After pondering it some, I think the destination has crystalized before our very eyes.
Nearly all players can be overheard talking fondly about their hometowns, but Anderson seemed to have recently taken it to another level. Prior to the Kings' game, he went into great detail describing the difficulty that his family has in coming to visit him in New Orleans more often: his dad works a job that he can't leave town, his mom is an interior designer and is a busy woman in general, and his sister has two kids -- making travel a genuine hardship. Thus, the burden normally falls on Anderson's shoulders to make time for those closest to him during the NBA season.
"It's kind of up to me when I come close to home. It's something people don't put into perspective. Yeah, our jobs are great and this is a dream of a life, but at the same time, it's hard not seeing your family. It would be a lot better if you could be with your family a bit more."
Prior to the trade deadline, we learned there exists mutual interest from the Kings organization as well. Back in January, rumors emerged that the Pelicans and Kings had discussed a trade proposal centered around a swap of Anderson for Rudy Gay. Although New Orleans reportedly balked, it confirmed Sacramento's desire to bring one of their former citizens back home.
Don't think I didn't notice George Karl referring to Anderson as, "a Sacramento Kid" in his post-game conference too. That's a big deal because the Kings haven't had much luck in recruiting notable free agents to California. This past offseason, the Kings opened up their wallets and were keen to add a serious name or two. They chased Monta Ellis and Wesley Matthews but had to settle for Marco Belinelli and, for many, what's-his-name.
I know Tom Ziller didn't mind the latest free agency outcome, but it's not a good look when a team's top options decide to leave extra money on the table to play elsewhere for less. With a record of 29-44, it's safe to say the Kings should still be searching for the right formula.
Fortunately for them, Ryan Anderson, a seemingly good fit alongside DeMarcus Cousins, would not spurn the franchise if presented a good opportunity. He truly loves Sacramento and he considers it his home because of family, friends and plenty of cherished memories. And it's not a secret, especially to those local to the area.
When James Ham asked Anderson about being back in Sacramento and playing in Arco for the final time, Ryan transitioned seamlessly during his response into the perfect Kings spokesperson.
"For the Sacramento fans, you have a beautiful new arena getting built. A team that's young and growing. It's an exciting time to be a Kings fan and it's an exciting time to live in Sacramento."
A little while later, Ham asked Anderson about the King's drama -- always so much chaos -- and whether it would serve as a deterrent to his upcoming free agency.
"I'll just say this. I think there is drama everywhere. Every team faces it."
Anderson promptly proceeded to give the standard answer of looking forward to exploring free agency at the conclusion of the Pelicans season, but one easily took away his compliments of the city and team as being his most sincere points.
Later in the linked podcast, Aaron Bruski joined Ham and they both stated that they feel Anderson would make for a good stretch four alongside the pair of Willie Cauley-Stein and Cousins. Then Ham flat out described the situation as poignantly as possible.
"Anderson wants to play in Sacramento. He loves Sacramento. His family lives here."
When is the last time Anderson or those covering the Pelicans mentioned Ryan's deep affinity for New Orleans? We understand he's one of the nicest players in the NBA, but outside of praising his teammates, I can't remember the last time he went in-depth about his positive feelings for the city.
In addition to his family and friends living hundreds and hundreds of miles away, a number of people once close to him in New Orleans are no longer here. Jason Smith, Jeff Withey and Monty Williams are gone. And the biggest hit of all, his girlfriend, Gia Allemand tragically took her own life several years ago.
I could be misreading the situation, but I feel as though Anderson has a void in his life, and with an opportunity to control his place of residence for at least the next several years, he's ready to fill it. It's time to move on. Remember this cryptic tweet from Marc Spears?
For any NBA team interested in trading for Pelicans Ryan Anderson, source said he's very interested in exploring FA so he'd be only a rental— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 15, 2016
At first, I had assumed it came from Anderson's camp because there was mutual interest in returning to the Pelicans yet that his representatives wanted to ensure New Orleans wouldn't be expecting to receive some big home town discount.
Now, I still believe the idea originated from Ryan's group but it's mainly due to the fact he's ready to return to California. In essence, his heart and mind have reached a conclusion, so NBA teams, don't bother courting him. Honestly, if his only agenda included exploring free agency, why drop the 'rental' bit -- you don't want to unnecessarily turn away a potentially good employer, right?
The Rudy Gay for Ryan Anderson rumor occurred less than 11 weeks ago. Anderson, an oft-contributor (usually weekly to bi-weekly) to his Instagram account, has made just one post within that long time frame.
Not only do I view the lack of posts as a potential red flag, but also that his last message listed 8 weeks ago quoted a passage from the bible, reminding all to those who publicly worship God to do so with a grateful heart. Could be something, could be nothing; regardless, there seems to be plenty of evidence linking Anderson's future with the Kings.
If Sacramento has any hopes left of retaining their franchise player, they're going to need to surround DeMarcus Cousins with some new game-changing pieces next season. Also, it wouldn't hurt breaking in the new stadium with more wins than losses, a higher dose of happier times than melancholy ones.
Ryan Anderson, a possible hometown hero, would likely be able to help on both accounts.