San Francisco Chronicle
How Curry and Warriors can benefit
Stephen Curry has a hell of a pit crew getting him back onto the NBA track.
Curry is rehabbing a sprained ankle that will keep him out of action at least through Christmas. I’m not sure why the NBA doesn’t simply put its schedule on hold for a couple of weeks. All the players could use a blow, and the league isn’t as much fun without Curry. But Adam Silver is a stickler for schedules. However, the commissioner will ask the league’s other superstars to be more exciting for the next couple of weeks, chipping in to make up for Steph’s absence.
But about the pit crew: For his daily shooting routine, which he got back to Wednesday, Curry works with assistant coaches Bruce Fraser and Nick U’ren, but Steve Nash recently joined the crew. You know Nash, the team consultant and two-time league MVP. Nash drops into practice from time to time and usually works with Kevin Durant, but this time, he joined Curry’s fun bunch.
Curry did his usual shooting. Looked nimble, did the typical cutting and running, didn’t seem to be favoring the ankle, got the usual lift off the
floor on his jumper, which isn’t much.
I wonder if the forced layoff will be beneficial for Curry. Who knows, maybe a bit of shot fatigue can set in when you shoot a million shots a day, and now maybe he has a bit of mental and physical freshness.
It’s work, Curry’s shooting routine, but it doesn’t look like drudgery. It’s quick-paced and methodical, with U’ren rebounding, feeding Fraser, who feeds Curry, but the three don’t look like they’re paid to be there. Three guys at the gym.
Nash added a professorial touch. At one point, Curry fastened on a wide rubberized belt with two resistance bands, one attached to the belt near each hip. Fraser stood behind Curry and grabbed a band in each hand, like a farmer hitching up the plow horse.
Curry dribbled forward against the band resistance, maneuvered, then shot. Fraser moved with him, looking like a puppet master.
Fraser said the gizmo is relatively new to the team, introduced by Nash. It is designed to develop the core, and improve balance and positioning. So hey, maybe Curry, who was playing at an MVP-discussion level, will come back better than ever.
If not, at least he’ll pick up some soccer moves from Nash, who was playing hacky-sack with a basketball, and shooting baskets off his instep.
Curry looks good, is healing on schedule, will be re-evaluated next week, but there is a worry cloud over the rest of the season. Every player rolls an ankle, but nobody has forgotten Curry’s career-threatening ankle problems (two surgeries) six seasons ago.
The Warriors have stocked up on extra superstars for a rainy day, but if we’re playing America’s silliest game, “Which Warrior is Most Indispensable,” I’m taking Curry.
Short-term, though, Curry’s absence is not without its benefits.
In the Warriors’ overtime win over the Lakers on Monday night, Durant missed his first seven shots. Had Curry been playing, Durant might have backed off and looked for Curry. Durant knew he had to shoot himself back to reality immediately, so he kept jacking, and wound up scoring 36 points, shooting 10-for-22 after the cold start.
It’s good for Durant and Klay Thompson to know they have to help make up for Curry’s lost 26 points every game. Thompson did it Wednesday night by scoring 27 points in the first half against Memphis.
When all the Warriors are healthy, one thing head coach Steve Kerr has to worry about and fight against, is cruise control. Sometimes for this group, the game is too easy. That can be good, because you can’t play six months with a white-hot intensity, but a team needs challenges.
Plenty of room for that type of growth now, with Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston also missing time with injuries. Kerr loves it when the spotlight gets thrown on the non-superduperstars. Keeps morale up, and Kerr knows those players will be needed in the postseason.
Omri Casspi, for instance, has received extended minutes, and has responded. He fits the Warriors’ offense so well that general manager Bob Myers must be embarrassed that he got Casspi so cheaply.
David West, whose playing time has gone up and is the man who looked like he would be phased into an end-of-career mentorship role, is fly-swatting the shots of teen phenoms.
We’ll all miss watching Curry go against LeBron on Christmas Day, but the big show is months away. On Monday, before that Cavs-Warriors game, maybe Curry can call in a stunt double, Nash, to take that pregame Tunnel Shot. Off his instep.