Stephen Curry looks forward to return to lineup
Warriors guard has one goal for Game 2: ‘Just not suck’
OAKLAND, California — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has one goal when he returns to action on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.
“Just not suck after missing five weeks,” Curry told The Undefeated. “That’s my goal.”
The two-time NBA MVP has not played since March 23 because of a sprained right knee. Without Curry, the Warriors defeated the San Antonio Spurs in five games during the first round of the NBA playoffs and routed the Pelicans 123-101 in Game 1 of their second-round series April 28.
The Warriors have listed Curry as probable for Game 2 against the Pelicans. Coach Steve Kerr told ESPN on Monday that Curry’s minutes will not be restricted.
While Curry is one of the NBA’s most explosive scorers and outside threats, it sounded like he just wants to fit in Tuesday night.
“If I do get the green light, just play my game,” Curry said after Game 1. “Do what I do on both ends of the court to help the team. There is nothing special about it. Just try to use my energy as a spark.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Curry returned to full-contact practice last Thursday and scrimmaged 5-on-5 for the first time the next day. After scrimmaging well, Curry told Kerr and Warriors general manager Bob Myers that he hoped to play in Game 1 against New Orleans. Kerr, Myers and athletic trainer Chelsea Lane, however, met with Curry on the morning of April 28 and told him he was out for the second-round opener.
Kerr said the Warriors had to protect Curry from “himself and his own competitive desire.” Not playing in Game 1 gave the two-time NBA champion an extra three days to prepare for his return to the lineup.
So was Curry upset with the decision to sit him for Game 1?
“I know what the situation is,” Curry said. “It’s something that was kind of unforeseen, and you have a conversation about as you get close because of how the games fall, whatever day it is based on my rehab process. I would say I was disappointed because I woke up [April 28] feeling like I might be able to play [in Game 1], but not much like I’m not where I need to be at this point.”
It hasn’t been all bad for Curry during his layoff, as it was announced last week that he signed a multiyear development and production deal with Sony Pictures across its film, television and worldwide partner operations platforms.
Curry’s deal is the largest for an athlete, according to Variety. His new production company, Unanimous Media, will develop and produce film and television projects with a focus on family, faith and sports themes while based at the Sony Pictures studio lot in Culver City, California. The Sony deal also has opportunities for partnerships, gaming, electronics and virtual reality content.
“It’s pretty special,” Curry said. “I have a great team that is working with me bringing this opportunity to me. To have an opportunity to work with a company like Sony that has such far-reaching TV, film and products and all that stuff and be in the presence with them should be an amazing opportunity to impact the world. And that is what we’re trying to do.”
The Warriors started a surprising new small lineup with Draymond Green at center, Nick Young and Kevin Durant as forwards and Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson as guards against New Orleans. After holding a slim 35-34 lead after the first quarter, the Warriors outscored New Orleans 41-21 in the second quarter to take a 76-55 halftime lead and weren’t challenged after that. Durant and Thompson combined for 53 points, while Green had a triple-double with 12 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.
Curry, who is expected to replace Young in the lineup and play guard, envisioned success with that starting lineup against NBA All-Star Anthony Davis.
“It didn’t surprise me at all,” Curry said. “These dudes have been playing amazing. A lot of people try to key in on my return. But our locker room has confidence that they can get the job done whether I’m out there or not. So that is the confidence we have to have to win a championship.”
The Warriors have to guard against a possible letdown in Game 2 after drubbing the Pelicans by 22 points. Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, however, believes the addition of Curry will give the team a needed boost of adrenaline that can prevent such a letdown. Livingston also added that with Curry out, the Warriors’ supporting cast grew in the process.
Livingston, who has had his share of major knee injuries, said Curry looked “great” during scrimmage April 27 and appears ready to go. Livingston also believes that sitting Curry in Game 1 ended up being a sound decision for the Warriors.
“It’s strategic in a way, right? It’s like chess,” Livingston said. “Let’s handle our business [in Game 1]. And for a possible letdown game, you’ve got him coming back. That magnitude and his energy could carry over to us.
“But it’s important that we stay locked in and understand that it is about the series. It’s about not giving them confidence that they need to go back home with.”
Curry averaged 28.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4 assists in three regular-season games against the Pelicans. The Warriors were 3-0 in the games that Curry played against New Orleans. While Davis said Curry adds a “different dynamic,” he said the Pelicans won’t make any major changes defensively and need some pride going forward after the Game 1 rout.
“We’re going to do the same thing that we’ve been doing, without the breakdowns,” Davis said. “He does the same thing that Klay and K.D. [Durant] do. Throw into the post, they come off screens. He can dribble down and just pull up. So we’re gonna be more locked in defensively, especially with him coming back.
“But for us, it’s all about pride. What they did in the second quarter was an embarrassment to us. We’re not that type of team. … We came out and missed shots and let that dictate our defense. So, of course, we have to put the ball in the basket. But at the same time, we’ve got to play a little bit of defense.”
After a day off, Curry and the Warriors practiced on Monday to prepare for Game 2. The Warriors are still without second-year guard Patrick McCaw (back), who will be re-evaluated in early May and is still walking gingerly. But at least with Curry back, the Warriors’ starting five would be at full strength at the most important time of the season.
“It’s exciting for him to get back to the place that he enjoys the most, which is playing basketball,” Durant said. “I’m excited as his brother that he’s out there. We’ll see what happens next game.”
Said Livingston: “We’re all a-kid-in-a-candy-store excited for him. He’s excited to be out there with the guys for the camaraderie more than anything. Getting him back, it just opens all the possibilities again for us.”