Curry’s return is the start of more work
SAN FRANCISCO >> There’s a white board in the Warriors’ locker room at Chase Center that is updated with the night’s rotations before every game. For 126 days, it has not included the name of Steph Curry.
That could change soon as Thursday.
Since breaking a bone in his left hand Oct. 30, Curry has undergone two surgeries, a meticulous rehab and several scrimmages. Though his return will mark an achievement, it is hardly the end of the process.
For Curry, he’ll not only need to get accustomed to playing with a left hand that sustained nerve damage, but he’ll also need to get accustomed to playing with new teammates, and losing at a rate he hasn’t experienced since the dark days of 2011.
Here are some of the biggest questions the Warriors will face when he returns. HOW DOES HE IMPACT THE STARTING LINEUP? >> In Tuesday’s win against the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors used their 32nd different
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. TV/Radio: TNT/95.7 FM
starting lineup of this injury-plagued season. For Curry to be able to develop some chemistry with his new teammates, head coach Steve Kerr will have to hope his team can stay healthy enough to establish a more consistent rotation.
With Draymond Green (left knee soreness) and Kevon Looney (hip) sidelined in Denver, the Warriors started Damion Lee, Mychal Mulder, Andrew Wiggins, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Marquese Chriss. Only two of those players — Wiggins and Chriss — are locks to start alongside Curry.
It would be simple enough to slot Curry into Mulder’s spot and Green into Toscano-Anderson’s, giving the Warriors a starting lineup of Curry, Lee, Wiggins, Green and Chriss. The other option would be to send Lee to the bench and start Toscano-Anderson — a better defender who has made 42% of his 3-pointers — who could more closely mimic Klay Thompson’s role.
Meanwhile, Eric Paschall, who has come off the bench for the last four games despite the Warriors having only eight or nine players available, should continue to play a reserve role, as well as Jordan Poole and Looney.
DOES CURRY FALL BACK INTO HIS COMFORT ZONE WITH GREEN? >> Of Curry’s 11 assisted field goals this season, Green accounted for six, more than all of Curry’s other teammates combined.
Though it’s understandable that Curry relied on Green to start a season without previous mainstays like Thompson, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, an important part of the rest of the season is Curry getting used to playing with 10 players who were not on the 2019-20 roster (and six who were not in Golden State to start the season).
But the sort of chemistry those guys had was built up over multiple seasons and extended playoff runs. After
the Warriors stumbled out to a 1-2 start, it’s telling that in Curry’s last game against Phoenix, all three of his made field goals involved Green, while the rest of his teammates stood around the perimeter.
Curry isn’t used to losing games, and still isn’t. Yes, the Warriors have the worst record in the league, but Curry has played all the way through only two of those losses.
Kerr and the rest of the Warriors have already accepted that this season is not about winning but, rather, development. There will be times Curry needs to eschew the easy two-man game with Green and instead exercise some kind of cadence with his new teammates. It will take time, mistakes and patience.
CAN HE MAKE WIGGINS BETTER? >> Of Curry’s new teammates, none is more important to the future of the Warriors than Wiggins. The fit between Curry and D’Angelo Russell wasn’t all bad, but it was forced. The Warriors believe that, by swapping Russell for Wiggins before the trade deadline, they acquired a more natural fit with Curry, Thompson and Green.
Since arriving, Wiggins has been asked to play engaged defense, run the floor and hit spot-up jumpers as the Warriors project his role next to their foundational pieces. That will be his job description when Curry returns.
Specifically, Wiggins is an elite off-ball cutter with great feel and timing — he scores on cuts at a 79% clip, a mark that ranks in the top 10% of players in the league. He will have even more space to get to the rim when Curry is stretching defenses 30 feet away from the basket.
“I scrimmaged with Steph one time already and he made the game fun and easy for everybody,” Wiggins said. “So I’m excited.”
Defensively, Wiggins should also make the game easier for Curry in a way Russell could not. In the last three games, Kerr has slotted Wiggins on the opponent’s point guard, testing the 25-year-old’s ability to guard on the ball. If he can keep doing that, it will take the pressure off Curry to do the same when he returns.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, left, does an exercise while at practice at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz on Monday.