Star con­fi­dent War­riors can see off big-spend­ing NBA chal­lengers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Stephen Curry reck­ons the NBA cham­pion Golden State War­riors can fend off their beefed-up chal­lengers next sea­son and bag a third ti­tle in four years.

The likes of Hous­ton and Ok­la­homa City have sig­naled their ti­tle in­tent by bol­ster­ing their ros­ters this sum­mer with All-Star qual­ity in the form of Chris Paul and Paul Ge­orge, re­spec­tively.

How­ever, War­riors su­per­star Curry, who has just con­cluded a five-day visit to China with spon­sor Un­der Ar­mour, re­mains un­ruf­fled by the es­ca­lat­ing arms race.

“There are 29 teams gear­ing up to try to beat us and some of them have made moves. If you look at the ros­ters that have been struc­tured al­ready, the west (con­fer­ence) is get­ting tougher,” Curry told China Daily ear­lier this week dur­ing his visit which saw him take in Bei­jing, Chengdu and Hangzhou to pro­mote his sig­na­ture UA prod­ucts and youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in bas­ket­ball.

“To try to do it back-to-back, the chal­lenge for us is re­ally heavy, but we feel like we have the tal­ent, the ex­pe­ri­ence and the ma­tu­rity to do it. We know how hard this can be to back it up, so the best way for us is to stay fo­cused on the here and now.”

While their op­po­nents have un­doubt­edly been busy, the War­riors’ front of­fice has done plenty too. Curry has just signed a new five-year con­tract worth $201 mil­lion with the fran­chise; vet­eran An­dre Iguo­dala, play­maker Shaun Liv­ingston and blue-col­lar for­ward Zaza Pachu­lia have all re-signed while Fi­nals MVP Kevin Du­rant has agreed to stay for two more years on less money than he could ask for.

With sav­ings from Du­rant’s vol­un­tary pay cut, Golden State also brought in free agent Nick Young to add more depth to its bench.

Mean­while, last sea­son’s Fi­nals run­ners-up the Cleve­land Cava­liers looked to have man­aged to hold on to want­away Kyrie Irv­ing and have added 2011 MVP Der­rick Rose.

How­ever, the War­riors would still ap­pear to be the fa­vorites to top­ple LeBron James’ Cavs should they meet in the Fi­nals for the fourth straight year.

But be­fore a po­ten­tial Fi­nals re­turn next year, Golden State has to pull through a tougher western con­fer­ence play­off set up against the re­vamped Rock­ets, who are now armed with the su­per­star combo of James Harden and Paul.

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There are no guar­an­tees, though, that those big names will gel, and the War­riors showed last sea­son they have no prob­lems in that re­gard.

“For us the big­gest thing is that we don’t care who gets the credit on a night-to-night ba­sis be­cause we all get the credit as long as we win the cham­pi­onship,” said Curry, who, even along­side the pro­lific Du­rant, con­trib­uted 28.1 points per game in the past post­sea­son.

“At the end of the day it’s about the team and win­ning games, not about get­ting the spot­light on your­self.

“There is a healthy drama in our locker room. It’s not about bash­ing your team­mates. It’s about mak­ing each other bet­ter ev­ery day.”

The two-time league MVP, 29, showed the bond that ex­ists within his team while in Chengdu, hav­ing a laugh at his “Splash Brother” Klay Thomp­son’s ex­pense by reen­act­ing a dunk fail that his back­court part­ner sur­pris­ingly pro­duced dur­ing the lat­ter’s own China visit last month.

Curry added: “The rea­son we have that tro­phy right here is be­cause the cul­ture was es­tab­lished early and ev­ery­body fits into what their role is on the team and do­ing it to the best of their abil­ity.”

Q&A with Erick Haskell, Un­der Ar­mour’s Greater China man­ag­ing di­rec­tor

As ar­guably the best player in the game, Stephen is the strong­est weapon we have. I think Curry em­bod­ies the same val­ues as UA does, such as hard work, dis­ci­pline and ded­i­ca­tion. I think those val­ues are not just for bas­ket­ball but can ap­ply uni­ver­sally in all sports. We think he tran­scends bas­ket­ball and can be an over­all UA am­bas­sador to use his global star power to bring a buzz to the brand in China.

How does Stephen Curry’s pres­ence help grow the sport of bas­ket­ball and the UA brand in China? Why is Curry so pop­u­lar in China? How does UA grow in the Chi­nese mar­ket?

I think the Chi­nese find a lot of qual­i­ties in Stephen that they can re­late to. It gets back to his per­sonal val­ues that stay con­sis­tent. He seems a very hum­ble per­son and I no­ticed that the Chi­nese are re­ally in­ter­ested in the fact that he is a fam­ily man. He doesn’t put him­self out there like some su­per­stars do. I think he brings him­self down to every­one else’s level, which makes him ap­peal­ing to peo­ple. UA is al­ways known as an un­der­dog brand. There is a real syn­ergy be­tween Stephen and UA. For­tu­nately, that seems to re­ally res­onate with Chi­nese con­sumers.

Since 2015, we’ve been roughly dou­bling the busi­ness al­most ev­ery year. We will end this year in Greater China with about 450 stores. That’s up from about 30 in 2015. It’s been a mas­sive store ex­pan­sion. We will be in 80 cities by the end of the year on a rapid in­crease in the geo­graphic foot­print. We are am­bi­tious in the mar­ket. The changes that have hap­pened in the last five years in terms of China em­brac­ing fit­ness and sports are amaz­ing, which is a longterm life­style ad­just­ment. All these things have come to­gether to change the mind­set of the Chi­nese to want more sport. That’s why I am so bullish about this whole in­dus­try here. It’s an ex­cit­ing time to in­vest in sports in China.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Stephen Curry of the Golden State War­riors proved a huge hit with fans on his re­cent five-day visit to China. The two-time NBA cham­pion also en­joyed a wide va­ri­ety of Chi­nese cul­ture dur­ing the trip, in­clud­ing watch­ing Sichuan opera, learn­ing tai chi and play­ing ping pong, as well as host­ing sev­eral youth bas­ket­ball train­ing clin­ics.

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