HANG TIME WEST — The latest performance, 22 points Saturday in Washington, was a continuation of Stephen Curry‘s hot streak and could be considered, by comparison, a down game because Curry also had four turnovers against five assists and was two of eight on 3-pointers.
A positive outcome even on a night of grinding gears, all the way to the Golden State victory itself, the 101-97 roll in the mud with the Wizards. This is what vindication looks like.
That four-year, $44-million rookie-deal extension he signed Oct. 31?
Then: Understandable-but-risky move for a player with a history of injury problems.
Now: Wise investment.
Sharp change of thinking, yes, especially with the season merely at the quarter pole, but the Warriors look smart and will still look smart even if Curry cools into an ordinary player. Which is the whole point. Giving Curry a contract extension and beating the Halloween deadline was a pre-emptive strike to head off the offers from other teams in July 2013 as much as it was a vote of confidence for his delicate ankles. Plus, the Warriors now know the price of keeping him would have gone up. Maybe a suitor with the chance to hand Golden State an offer sheet lined by fire, maybe in the updated demands from Curry himself, but the first 20 games is time enough to see that $11 million a season wouldn’t get it done in the summer, health willing.
Curry is averaging 37.3 minutes and has yet to miss a tip. The ankles appear to be in proper working order again. That’s obviously reason for encouragement.
It’s his play, though. Curry shooting 42.9 percent is a developing area of concern that can no longer be discarded as an early-season slump, but that should come around. He didn’t suddenly turn bad after the 47.3 percent of the first three seasons. (And Curry is at a respectable 42.5 behind the arc, so defenses are hardly to the point of backing off on the perimeter.)
Curry is looking more like a point guard, as indicated by the recent string of four games in a row with at least 20 points and 10 assists, putting him alongside Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook as the only players to accomplish that since 2009-10. And as indicated by the Eastern Conference executive who recently told Hang Time CEO Sekou Smith: “This is the player everyone was excited about when he was at Davidson. You knew he had the potential to be a dynamic scorer and a great shooter. The question was always going to be about his ability to adjust to being a full-time point guard and whether that would take away from his scoring ability. When he and Monta [Ellis] were there together and he was always hurt, it didn’t look like he was going to get there. But he’s doing both right now and doing them well.”
Remember, Curry was already held in high regard in many front offices. He was high on the New Orleans wish list for a Chris Paul trade, but the Warriors wouldn’t budge. (Ellis yes, Curry no.) Now, opponents see that the ankle is holding up and that Curry can put up assists even as the leading scorer on a team playing well through the adversity of losing Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush to injury. Point guard, 24 years old, can score and pass, solid citizen – yeah, the money would have changed by the end of the season.
That holds even if Curry does not maintain this pace because the package of position, skill set and age is now combined with the play, however temporary. This is the trajectory. Only the sight of Curry on the court and clutching an ankle changes that.