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Steph, Warriors anxious for CP3's return on upcoming road trip

Steph, Warriors anxious for CP3's return on upcoming road trip originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – Steve Kerr confirmed that the Warriors expect and plan to activate Chris Paul during Golden State’s upcoming four-game road trip, and said it would give the team more freedom to offer Stephen Curry some rest.

Over the past 10 days, Curry’s shooting numbers have dipped a little. In a 119-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday at Chase Center, the two-time NBA MVP scuffled through one of his worst shooting performances of the 2023-24 season, going 6 of 19 overall and just 1 of 10 beyond the arc.

The quick and easy reaction is that Curry, who has had to shoulder the bulk of offense for the Warriors this season, is most likely tiring down and could use a break from carrying so much of the scoring burden.

Kerr hinted to that during his postgame press conference with reporters following the loss at Chase Center, but Curry, typically, wasn’t having any of it.

In Curry’s view, it’s just a part of the ebbs and flows that come with any season.

“That’s why they’re called averages. You got the highs and lows of it,” Curry said. “The standard that you set, when you don’t meet it, there’s questions about ‘Are your legs tired?’ No, he just missed shots. Keep shooting. That’s part of the nature of being available to play in every game. Never lose confidence, come back Monday and try to shoot well on the road.”

Clearly the best shooter on the roster, Curry has had some truly magical games this season where he has appeared to be in his prime form. He dropped 60 points on the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 3, had 42 against the Indiana Pacers five days later, then put up 41 on the Los Angeles Clippers on Valentine's Day.

Since then, the best distance shooter in NBA history has been up and down.

In the Warriors’ last four games, Curry is shooting at a 38-percent clip. That would be a satisfying stat to some players, but for someone of Curry’s caliber, it’s a cause for concern.

That’s why Golden State is eager for Paul to get back on the court. The 12-time NBA All-Star hasn’t played since Jan. 5 when he suffered a fractured left hand that eventually required surgery.

When Paul comes back, he will pair with Klay Thompson to form a very solid backcourt that will anchor Golden State’s second unit. Paul also will see time playing alongside Curry, with the hopes of freeing him up for cleaner looks.

“Chris, when he comes back, he’ll play all of the non-Steph minutes and then he’ll go out there with Steph as well,” Kerr said. “It’s easier for us to put Steph off the ball and take some of the wear and tear off of him when Chris is out there because he doesn’t have to bring it up and battle pressure and all that.”

Curry isn’t buying the theory that he has been wearing down over the last few games. But he’s definitely looking forward to Paul’s return, knowing it should provide a big spark that Golden State obviously still needs.

“I’m excited about it,” Curry said. “When he got hurt, we were not in a great place and trying to establish our identity. We’ve had a pretty good run, built some momentum since he’s been out. But he’s such a connector, a floor general and a guy that gets everybody in the right spots.

“So whether it’s when I’m on the bench or rotations where we’re on the court at the same time, it’ll hopefully elevate us to another level where he gets comfortable, gets his legs underneath him and just does what he does. That on top of how we’ve been playing, up until tonight, hopefully will allow us to keep building.”

Before his injury, Paul wasn’t doing much scoring. His average of 8.9 points is the lowest of his 19-year NBA career. But he was doing a fantastic job running the offense, dishing out an average of 7.2 assists each night while shooting better than 42 percent from the floor.

While he has been out injured, Paul has maintained a steady presence on the Warriors' bench. During Sunday's loss to the Nuggets, Paul – as he has done in so many other games while out – repeatedly stood and encouraged his teammates, showing them where to go on certain plays and offering other helpful tips.

That kind of leadership will come in handy for the Warriors as they try to make a run at the playoffs.

“I expect Chris to be himself. That’s one of the greatest play-makers, a nasty defender,” Thompson said. “Just kind of right the ship when Steph needs a break. It’s very exciting. I’m excited to step in the floor with him. That second unit, you can’t really ask for a better backcourt to come off the bench with. It’s very exciting, to be honest.”

Although he will benefit by not having to play as much when Paul does come back, Curry is more looking forward to watching the duo of CP3 and Thompson, who might be the only two potential Hall of Famers in the NBA this season who will be coming off the bench.

“They should win most of those minutes that they’re out there,” Curry said. “That’s what it takes to be a really good team, having those combinations with experience, talent and a know-how. Throw in what Trayce [Jackson-Davis] has been doing in that group and mixing and matching who’s out there with him … it should be a nice chemistry there.

"It’ll be fun. Our starting unit has been playing a lot better as of late. If you can get off to a good start and you have those two guys coming in, we got a lot of confidence in what they’re going to be able to do out there on the floor.”

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