As the anesthesia was about to be given to Stephen Curry prior to his second ankle surgery last April, the Golden State point guard's mind was racing for good reason about his NBA future.
"If my ankle was unstable it could have taken up to a year to rehab and recover from," Curry said. "They couldn't tell me if I would be able to play the way I used to or if my ankle would ever feel the same as before. That's a tough thought to have before you go in [the operating room]."
The injury forced Curry to miss 40 games in the lockout shortened 2011-12 season, when he averaged career lows of 14.7 points and 3.4 assists. He had missed eight games in the 2010-11 season before having his first ankle surgery.
The second operation was of an exploratory nature. Curry's wife, Ayesha, his father/former NBA player Dell Curry and agent, Jeff Austin, waited nervously at the hospital during the surgery. But the procedure wasn't as feared as doctors only cleaned out loose debris and scar tissue. Once Curry was awake, his wife gave him good news that he was expected to be back by training camp.
"I didn't want to be the player that was forever limited in what he could do on the court because of a serious problem with my ankle, with the alignment … " Curry said. "But when I came out my wife told me they just got the scar tissue out. I thought she was lying at first because I had some concerns and anxiety about it."
[NBA power rankings: Warriors climb into top 10]
Curry, finally healthy again, is averaging career-highs of 20 points and 6.5 assists. His recent stretch of four consecutive 20-point, 10-assist games marked the first time a Warrior recorded four or more straight since Tim Hardaway in December of 1992.
The Warriors (14-7) are also off to their best start since the 1991-92 season. They have won four straight and are 8-4 on the road. And this is mostly without center Andrew Bogut, who is out indefinitely with a left ankle injury.
Golden State has chance to make a national statement on the road against the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
"That's a big deal to go through 21 games and be fifth in the West and to play well like we are, especially on the road," Curry said. "Obviously, there is still a lot of season left and a lot of work to be done. But I think you can get excited about what we are trying to do here."
Curry wears a "special heavy duty" ankle brace that protects both sides with a plastic bar. Somehow, he says, his foot doesn't feel like it's suffocating. He does a 30-minute regimen before games to keep strengthening his ankle and engages in soft tissue work on it during his off days. The new ankle brace and rehab, however, didn't stop him from having ankle issues in late October. The concerned Warriors sidelined him until the start of the regular season.
The timing couldn't have been worse for Curry as a contract extension deadline was arriving. The Warriors would have been protected if an extension wasn't offered since he would have been a restricted free agent next summer. This was the first major decision by the Warriors' new ownership, led by Joe Lacob and first-year general manager Bob Myers.
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In the end, the Warriors showed confidence in Curry and his ankle by offering a four-year extension paying $44 million on deadline day.
"Clearly because of his injury there was more risk there," Myers said. "To not acknowledge that wouldn't be right. With him, the thinking was from ownership on down that if you were going to bet on a player this was the type of player you bet on because of his character and because of his talent."
Said Curry: "I can't thank them enough for opening up negotiations when they really didn't have to. I guess they saw the promise in my game and what I could do for a team."
Curry and the Warriors have been to the playoffs only once since 1995. David Lee, Klay Thompson and several other Warriors have made a strong impact so far, too. But for a real shot at a playoff return, Golden State needs a healthy Curry.
"It feels good to be healthy," Curry said. "The one thing I can worry about is how I am playing, not just being on the court."
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