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View Full Version : Who's Stopping Steph Curry?



tbbyolumbatobby
05-02-2017, 12:52 PM
It's March 15, and Stephen Curry is hard at work in his laboratory, firing shots at the basket tucked in the corner of Golden State's practice facility. Steph's hoop has been a constant since 2012, back when he lived in a loft on the same block as the facility. Curry might change shoes at halftime if his shot is errant, but he's never changing baskets.

The hoop is on the fifth floor of the pinkish-beige downtown Oakland Marriott, resting above the city's attached, unassuming strip of a convention center. Atop the beige box sits a panopticon where media and visitors stare at the efforts of a man too focused on the rim to notice. It's a window into the drudgery that informs the fireworks. He's sprinting through his shooting routine with purpose, having made 25.8 percent of his 3s over his past eight games. No matter who you are, that's not good. If you're Steph Curry, who hit 45.4 percent of his 3s last season, it's awful. SportVU tracking data says Steph has missed 28 of his past 35 "wide open" 3-pointers. He's searching.

He's also singing.

"I am not throwing away my ...*shot," Steph belts out, followed by the whoosh of leather hitting twine. "I am not throwing away my ...*shot." Another swish.

Curry has just seen*Hamilton*in San Francisco. Not having known much about it going in, he was entranced by the production and has since embraced "My Shot" as an anthem ("for obvious reasons," Steph explains with a smile).

Hamilton*uses "shot" as a metaphor for opportunity. And there the parallels between man and musical end. Alexander Hamilton, or at least the stage version of him, is a selfish jerk whose arrogant undoing causes his wife to belt, "I hope that you burn." Meanwhile, Curry might lead the league in G-rated, adorable portrayals of his marriage on social media. But while he has little in common with the Hamilton of*Hamilton, after a night at the Orpheum Theatre with his wife, Ayesha, he's feeling an ambitious ode to reclaiming what's his.

Curry really is nice. Ask anyone in the organization. Ask anyone who's had multiple interactions with him. As Draymond Green often says of his teammate, "It's not a front." If "nice" is Steph's brand, it's a brand buoyed by authenticity.

In many ways,*nice*built this team. It's allowed Steph to delegate powers to others who, fortunately, have used those powers well. It's allowed him to focus on improving himself, while leaving others to do the kinds of jobs that augment his efforts. It's allowed the Warriors to fire Mark Jackson, against Curry's wishes. And it allowed the team to make its biggest, boldest move of all: force the very nice man who resurrected the franchise to marginalize himself -- and like it.

THE MIAMI SUPERTEAM*was born out of the deep friendship between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It was a bottom-up coup -- one, some would hazard, that began brewing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when they won gold for Team USA. The Kevin Durant-era Warriors began differently. It wasn't two superstars turning their friendship into a working relationship. Golden State's Durant liaison was, in fact, Green, not Curry.

By most accounts, Curry gets along with Durant just fine. But according to team sources, the Warriors had to approach Steph and ask him to join the recruitment last summer. And he did. Ever the good soldier, Steph abandoned his Under Armour basketball camp, located in Hawaii, to hop on a plane and fly to New York's Hamptons. As The Undefeated's Marc Spears reported, "According to a person who saw the text messages, Curry told Durant in a text message that he could care less about who is the face of the franchise, who gets the most recognition or who sells the most shoes (Curry is with Under Armour, Durant with Nike)."

Curry's renouncement of shoe sales came at a curious time. A season earlier, he had been asked after practice whether he wanted the best-selling shoe in the country. "Of course," he responded. But last summer, his sneaker brand was in serious need of a rebound. The 2016 Finals saw his kicks roasted on social media before he and his team suffered an ignominious flameout. Under Armour sensed this opportunity and unveiled the slogan for its preseason ad for Steph: "Make That Old."

To make anything "old," though, Curry needed control of the narrative. And with Durant coming to town, he would have no such authorial power. Once Durant did arrive, he didn't exactly take it easy on the Curry brand either, telling The Ringer's Bill Simmons that Curry's maligned, bone-white Chef Curry 2s "were bad."

Today, if you look down at the floor during a Golden State practice or game, you'll notice that the most commonly worn shoe on the team is Kevin Durant's KD 9. There's a reason for this, beyond the shoe's inherent appeal. In training camp, Nike sent a shipment to every player on the roster. And while the Curry-Durant dynamic is cooperative on the floor, off the floor it's conquest. Nike, quite logically, wants to destroy Curry's brand and does not mind using Durant as a proxy. Or as Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted over the summer, "For Nike, this is a coup: It wanted to slow Under Armour's momentum with Steph Curry and Warriors. Now, KD promises to impact Curry's star."

This tweet has been prophecy.
IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY,*and while Durant is having his game of the year -- 36 points, 15 rebounds -- Curry is having one of his worst, ending the day with 15 points on 4-for-11 shooting. It also happens to be the most viewed game of the season. On the final six possessions, Curry touches the ball twice: once to simply hand off the ball for a play run by Green, the other, a swished 3-pointer by Curry that came from the ether of transition. Otherwise, in the half court, Steph is merely a decoy, a screen setter.

On the final defensive possession, after having guarded Cleveland's Kyrie Irving well the play before, Curry is benched for the longer Shaun Livingston. As Irving hits the game winner, Curry's head is in his hands.

After the game, coach Steve Kerr criticizes Curry's decision-making. "I think he can be a little smarter, I think he can make better decisions, and that'll help against anybody," Kerr says. "I'm not worried about him missing shots; I'm more worried about just decision-making and making sure that we're where we need to be as a group."

Later, Curry takes to the interview room and is asked whether he was frustrated by the benching. "Yeah," he starts, followed by a smile and a snort. On the Curry scale, this is DEFCON 3-level subversion. (On the Draymond Green scale, it's just Tuesday.)

The smile fades as Curry returns to safe mode. "It's his call, obviously," Curry says. "But you'd love -- the competitive nature, you want to be out there to try to make a play. So that'll never die in me."

At the team's next practice, Curry tells the media he wants more pick-and-rolls in Kerr's offensive scheme (DEFCON 2). Curry had long bought into Kerr's off-ball-movement offense, the one they'd both ridden to a championship, but it was no secret he had grown weary of its costs this season. Curry was happy to leverage his shooting ability to free teammates up with screens (thus his massive plus-minus numbers in a less-than-dazzling season). But even team-first Steph has his limits.

It's a fairly common battle between coach and perimeter superstar (see: LeBron James vs. Erik Spoelstra in Miami): The superstar wants the control that pick-and-rolls afford, the coach wants a more sustainable method. Still, Kerr has reason to avoid the pick-and-roll beyond a stubborn adherence to philosophy: Both of his superstars wish to be the ball handler in pick-and-rolls, and Durant's screening ability leaves much to be desired. So for Kerr to go heavy on pick-and-roll is to marginalize one of his superstars. Kerr's solution thus far? To simply run fewer pick-and-rolls.

AFTER CHRISTMAS, KERR*acts like a man who has gotten the message. He readjusts the offense, running more pick-and-rolls, which coincides with a Steph surge. The downside? Durant hits an uncommon snag in the first three games of February, a regular kind of NBA dip but an unusual one for a man so accustomed to controlling the offense. In a game in Sacramento, Durant goes 2-for-10 as Green screams at him. "Kevin looked tired tonight," Kerr says after the game. "I think he was out of gas. He's been so incredible all year, been so efficient. He's allowed to have one of those." When asked whether Kerr was correct about fatigue, Durant says no: "Me? I wasn't tired. ... I was trying to make the right play, but sometimes you just gotta break it off and go score."

Then the pendulum swings back. Over five games, from Feb. 8 to 15, Curry slumps his way into the All-Star break, and Durant gets rolling again. Curry shoots just 25 percent from deep, his usage dipping from 28.4 percent for the season to 25.8. Durant's usage rises to 30.7 percent as he averages 25 points at a 67.1 percent true shooting rate. The KD-Steph dynamic is proving to be less complementary than expected -- less a symbiosis than a seesaw.

It's likely no coincidence, then, that Curry's best stretch of the season comes while Durant is rehabbing his injured left knee. At first, Curry and the Warriors sputter in Durant's absence, dropping five of seven. But in what would become a win during this stretch, a Warriors triumph at Madison Square Garden, ABC mics pick up Kerr trying to encourage Curry out of his slump: "Here's what I'm going to show you. That's your shooting totals [3-for-13 at the time]. That's your plus/minus [plus-15 at the time]," Kerr says, seated next to Curry on the bench. "All right. So it's not always tied together. You're doing great stuff out there. The tempo is so different when you're out there. Everything you generate for us is so positive. It shows up here. Not always there, but it always shows up here. You're doing great. Carry on, my son."

Then something funny happens. After Curry belts those lines from "My Shot," his Warriors begin singing a different tune. Over the next 13 games, he goes on to average 27.5 points on 52.1 percent from the field and 50.4 percent from 3 (on 9.9 attempts per game), to go along with 8.2 assists. It is the Steph of old.

http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/19256296/golden-state-warriors-steph-curry-stopped-only-kevin-durant



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ewing
05-02-2017, 06:37 PM
:yawn:

Chronz
05-02-2017, 07:00 PM
Love the idea of Kerr downplaying Currys individual stats while displaying his immense team influence with plus minus.

IKnowHoops
05-02-2017, 09:38 PM
Hasn't been to much of a problem last two finals.

Yanks All Day
05-03-2017, 04:26 PM
Most of the time Cleveland.

But in all seriousness, I have enjoyed this season from Steph more than any previous one. I'm not sure what it is about him - maybe because he's no longer universally regarded as the best player on his team, let alone the entire NBA. But it's been a great 2nd half for Steph, and he's been great to watch.