Stephen Curry missed 38 of the first 56 3-handers he attempted that season. His Golden State Warriors were hit without the injured Klay Thompson next to him on the famous Splash Brothers backcourt, losing 26, 39 and 25 points in their first five games.
At the time, there was little evidence that Curry would soon win the race for the N.B.A.’s Most Valuable Player Award. crash and inspire his trainer Steve Kerr to say this is the best version of his Star Guard yet.
Curry stopped saying he agreed. The likely explanation: He’s as bold as ever with his shot choices, confidence, solemn tricks, and ambition. Therefore, he expects more and more and defies the limits, even if his 33rd birthday is approaching next month.
“I play well,” said Curry in a telephone interview – but insisted that he could get better.
“I know that’s crazy to say,” he added.
Such a conversation isn’t crazy about the warriors who, since arriving from Davidson College, have grown accustomed to seeing Curry as skeptic after skeptic. Shaun Livingston, a former teammate who moved into the team’s front office, said Curry made contact noticeably more after working on his body during the off-season. Curry cited an improved ability to read defenses as an even greater development in his game.
After a broken hand and the N.B.A.’s break caused by the pandemic, which limited him to five games last season, Curry has made a strong recovery. He finished his early 3-point gunfights with a career high of 62 points against Portland on January 3, overtaking Hall of Famer Reggie Miller for second place in the Career 3-pointers made January 23, hanging 57 points the Dallas Mavericks two weeks after that.
Curry averages 29.9 points, 6.2 assists, and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the ground and 42.3 percent from 3-point range. These are the toughest figures he has produced since 2015-16 when he joined Liga M.V.P. for the second season in a row. The offensive boost gives him a real chance to join Michael Jordan on a very short list of players who averaged 30 points per game by age 32 or older.
The Warriors are confident that Curry can get back on the line-up against the Knicks on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden after illness forced him to skip Saturday’s game in Charlotte. After Thompson tore their right Achilles tendon in November, they’re so dependent on him in their current condition that Curry may have to stay at a supernova level to get his 16-15 team back into the playoffs.
Team officials have now also learned that there is little point in curbing one’s aspirations or quirks after seeing Curry grow into a revolutionary franchise cornerstone – even if that means scrolling through potentially toxic social networks Media criticism on his cell phone at halftime.
Andrew Bogut, the recently retired former great warrior, announced on his new podcast, Rogue Bogues, last month that Curry tended to check out his Twitter mentions “when he’s had a bad half”. When asked to verify the story, Curry laughed and said it had actually become “a really bad habit”.
Bogut last played with Curry the last month of the 2018/19 regular season and the playoffs, negatively impacted by Kevin Durant (Achilles tendon) and Thompson (knee) injuries, and the Warriors’ remarkable run of three championships stopped in five in a row following trips to the NBA finals. When asked how regularly he looks at it at halftime, Curry said, “Probably more than you think.”
Ahead of that 62-point breakout against the Trail Blazers, Curry was aware of mounting criticism on social media doubting his ability to lead a team at risk of injury, claiming that a bad season for the Warriors could damage his legacy.
“I’ve seen it all,” he said of the critical tweets. “It was funny.”
Given the potential adverse effects on his mental health, Curry is ill-advised as he may be focusing more on “the comedy I get out of it” than trying to keep “the receipts” from fans and media who don’t do believe in him.
“It started by accident, to be honest,” he said the day before his seventh nomination as an All-Star Starter. “I had this ritual with my wife where she would send me some encouragement at halftime or kick my butt a little if I was playing badly. And of course, this Twitter button is spot on in the construction of iPhones. It’s easy to deal with it for a minute or two. To this day, I don’t know how Bogut caught it because I didn’t read the tweets out loud. “
After two games with at least 10 3-pointers earlier this month, Curry missed 15 of his first 18 3-pointers against the Miami Heat on Wednesday – only to lose two clutch 3-pointers in overtime in a win from behind. It was the kind of performance that set social media on fire, and critics challenged his two M.V.P. Trophies to be taken back and supporters who then “just ask” why he lives rent-free in the minds of so many people. (Translation: Why talk about him so much when he’s not as strong as advertised?)
“I don’t think he’s going to play the game after all or try to prove people wrong,” said Bruce Fraser, a Warriors assistant coach who works as closely with Curry as anyone else in the organization. “I think he just wants to be great. I saw him chasing after greatness last summer when no one was watching. The main piece to his success is the time he invested and his foray last summer. “
More than eight months off as part of one of the eight teams that did not finish last season in the N.B.A. have qualified. The Walt Disney World bubble resulted in the most prolific off-season in Curry’s career. It was the ideal tonic after the Warriors had played five feathers in a row through June. Curry was constantly at the gym, with longtime personal trainers Brandon Payne and Fraser building muscle to play through the contract and evade and grab the ball and girdle to go inside when the Defense played him too tight outside. The defense follows Curry so closely that he drives the ball more than since 2015/16. Almost 30 percent of the shots Curry has taken this season come within 10 feet of the basket.
“I’ve always been a late bloomer,” said Curry of the power boost, “so it’s no surprise.”
When Curry failed earlier this season, Fraser refused to worry. He was certain that Curry was ready to lead a largely new team alongside the title-tested Draymond Green. After all, Fraser was the one who tossed the passes at a post-training shooting session on December 26th when Curry made 105 consecutive 3-pointers – 103 of them in front of the camera.
The purity of Curry’s stroke, Fraser said the real problem was how Curry adjusted to a range of new defense coverings. With Durant now on the Nets and Thompson not available anywhere else in the line-up and barely reliable, Curry had to get used to opposing teams engaging with him like never before.
“It was really tough for him at the beginning of the season,” said Fraser. “Box-and-one, double teams, traps, triple teams. In transition I have seen times when Steph came down the floor and there are four people around him. “
Fraser’s retrospective encountered one of Curry’s favorite subjects. At this stage in his career, Curry seems to enjoy talking about the nuances of reading the game as much as it does his actual shooting.
“My patience is much better now if I had to choose one thing,” said Curry. “The way I see the game, when I’m on and off the ball, seeing what the defense is giving you and knowing I can find a way to get some space. I’m definitely enjoying this run.”
The intensity and variety of coverings “keeps me sharp,” said Curry.
The virtue and wisdom of listening to the latest critical chatter is much harder to spot – How much Prime do you have, Steph? – but that may be another green light that Curry deserves.
“When you occupy space that people never thought you could, there will always be attempts to explain it,” Curry said. “That comes with the territory. I like to have fun with it though. “