Star confident Warriors can see off big-spending NBA challengers
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.
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.
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.