If you haven’t been paying attention, Stephen Curry has had a relative down year in 2016-17. If you’re paying attention, yeah, magic. If you’re just hopping on now, though, Curry’s been slightly off, only infrequently slightly mad just 10 months after his last MVP win.
It’s OK to cop to that, because the league and its followers are hip to the trip. How couldn’t they be? Golden State added Kevin Durant during the offseason, and despite Durant’s best intentions and his obscenely high efficiency marks, he can’t help but take a little leather out of Curry’s hands. Curry, still the two-time reigning NBA MVP and leader of a team that hasn’t even finished its run as the best three-year team in NBA regular season history.
The Warriors could finish that 2015-17 haul with 67, 73 and 68 wins. Curry was around to win two MVPs for the first couple of campaigns, but he’ll be lucky to register in the top 10 in 2016-17 voting despite averaging 25 points, a combined 11 rebounds/assists, and 1.8 steals a night for the league’s best team.
That scoring mark is down almost five points per game from last season, and while his rebounds and assists have remained steady since Durant’s move from Oklahoma City to the Bay, Curry hasn’t blistered his way into the record books with a James Harden or Russell Westbrook-styled barrage of assists sent Durant’s way, either. Technically, in only showcasing All-Star form in 33 minutes a game, he has … taken a step back?
Held it in for the big moments?
Lost all of his luster and brio, at age 29?
Eh. To all of this, Curry (literally) says, “Who cares?” A talk with Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding relayed as much:
A post shared by Ball Don't Lie (@yahooballdontlie) on Apr 4, 2017 at 1:12pm PDT
“I think it’s comical that people were saying I’m having a down year,” Curry said.
“To go black and white and say I’m not having as good a season as I was having last year based on just five points a game or shooting percentage or whatnot…there are other things that you try to do other than just the eye test to try and help your team win.”
If anything, Curry should be banking on the eye test for support.
Even with Durant on board, with Draymond Green making us all worry about our Defensive Player of the Year selections and with the brilliant Klay Thompson always a threat to score 72 points in a single half, a healthy Curry looks to be the most potent, most spectacular player on the Golden State floor most nights. Hobbled by a season-scuffing MCL sprain last spring and summer, Curry looks as dangerous as ever – even if he’s shooting the ball two fewer times per game, even with his usage, assist and rebounding rates having taken a slight dip.
His True Shooting Percentage is still way over 60 percent, though, and the guy is one nice night away from shooting 47 percent from the field as a high-usage point guard in 2016-17. I mean,
Steph during the Warriors' 11-game W streak: 27 pts, 7.9 asts, 4.5 rebs, 2.3 stls in 33.1 MPG, 50% FG, 46.5% 3FG (10.4 attempts), 91.7% FT.
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) April 3, 2017
If you subtract Curry’s 17 “heaves” from over half court (of which he has made 1), then Steph is shooting 41.2% from 3 this year. What a bum https://t.co/N1Lj9kuwfO
— Jared Wade (@Jared_Wade) April 4, 2017
To Curry, nothing’s changed:
“And I can wake up every day and be like, ‘I know what I’m trying to accomplish; I know I’m going to get better.’ I know when I don’t play well and how mad I get at myself. I know when I do play well and how I want to keep that going. Same approach as I had last year.
“Just five fewer points a game. Who cares?”
The diet is the same, the approach is the same and the regular season results (63 wins in 77 attempts, top seed in the West and home-court advantage through the playoffs) are in line. So we’re talking about points per game, now? Come on.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr seems to like it when Stephen Curry gets a little testy, anyway:
“He’s an arrogant basketball player, which is what you need to be a superstar,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He goes out there and he’s looking to light it up every night.”
Curry went on to not talk about the former NBA MVP, in his prime, that the Warriors added last year in a fashion Costanza would admire, without having to give up that much:
“With the roster that we have and adding a guy like KD, there’s obviously going to be more of a balanced attack,” Curry said. “It’s pretty clear how that’s kind of evolved over the course of the season. My job as the point guard of this team is to balance all the talent that we have, plus at the same time staying aggressive with my own game.
“What we’ve been able to do the last two, three weeks has been a good reminder of exactly what we’re all capable of, and it’s no slight to [Durant]. When he’s back, we’re a much better team. We want him back as soon as possible. But what we’ve done in his absence, and how I’ve tried to help contribute at a high level, speaks for itself, really.”
JaVale McGee, all full of fresh perspective after too many years spent in the NBA wilderness, gave the semi-outsider’s perspective on Tuesday on what could be a “crazy” return from the 2014 MVP:
JaVale McGee said Golden State will be even scarier when Durant gets back. pic.twitter.com/KrUgIPm5hz
— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) April 4, 2017
Durant is due to return this weekend from a badly sprained knee, the latest warming note in a run that could not have gone better for Golden State. Save for the part where, for a good 14 hours or so, we were all scared witless that Kevin Durant could be lost for the season with a ligament tear. The W’s have won 13 of 17 since that night in Washington, and have hardly looked worse for the wear.
Better yet, the team was hardly struggling on either end in its borderline-unprecedented move to enter in a high-usage, MVP winner into its championship and record-setting fold. Curry can’t even look to Walt Frazier for inspiration in this instance, because as great as Earl Monroe was, Pearl’s addition to the 1971-72 New York Knicks hardly hit with the same force. The same goes for the 1982 Lakers, after they added high-scoring rookie James Worthy to what at the time was the league’s second-best offense, but still an NBA championship team.
Worthy never had to worry about working for anything less than a championship until his final few years in Los Angeles, which makes the recent story Durant relayed about a duplicitous interaction with the Basketball Hall of Famer and Lakers legend (and current Lakers TV analyst) all the more deadening, if hardly jolting.
“We played in Vancouver, first game in a Warriors uniform. And I see James Worthy walking out as I was leaving the game … it’s a legend here. ‘Big Game James.’ I didn’t get to see him play but I just know all about him … I’m a little skeptical at this point to even talk to anybody from the generation before because I don’t even know how they feel about me as a person, as a player because these dudes — they look at me as like, ‘Oh you switching teams, you chasing this, you chasing that.’ So I’m just gonna keep it moving.
“But he was like, ‘Man. Don’t worry about that stuff. People change jobs every single year, every single day. Don’t worry about that. Just go out there and keep working and go win.’ So I’m like, ‘Man that’s nice.’
“So I came back home that night and my boy Randy — I was like, ‘Man. James worthy was cool. He showed me so much love. I appreciate that.’ He (Randy) was like, ‘Huh? He was talking so bad about you on TV. He was saying Magic wouldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have done that…’
(Reminder: Magic Johnson discussed wanting to join his hometown Detroit Pistons early and often during the first few years of his Lakers career with team owner Dr. Jerry Buss. Those free-agent fears were as big an inspiration as anything for the 25-year, $25 million deal Buss signed Johnson to back in 1981.)
Hot Takes For TV are typically offered by those who offer the weak tea stuff in person, and it’s sadly no surprise that Worthy would betray his own words in order for 40 seconds of basic cable TV fire. That’s just how things are these days.
For some, and not all – remember that this interaction would have had to take place in October, during the NBA’s exhibition season, and we’ve come a long way since then in spite of the odd limping cupcake.
The Warriors, again, appear to be working with the right approach, New Guy included, even in civvies. More importantly, despite the team’s three years of ubiquity, not as many appear to be as sick of this club as we’ve seen in instances involving other recent two-time winners from Miami, Los Angeles or Chicago.
Of course, the Warriors haven’t won twice yet.
– – – – – – –
More NBA coverage from The Vertical: