Sure, it is a lost season for the Warriors. But for star guard Steph Curry and coach Steve Kerr, it was never going to be a four-and-done scenario. In fact, Curry returned to practice this week for the first time in three-and-a-half months.
Curry, when last we saw him in a Golden State uniform, was suffering a broken left hand back on October 30, in the Warriors’ fourth game. Two days after that, the Warriors released a statement saying, “Curry is expected to make a full recovery and an update on his status will be provided in three (3) months.”
Three months later, the team announced that Curry is progressing and would be re-evaluated in four weeks. That meant a potential return for Curry could come in March. That, according to Kerr, was never in doubt, even as some fans and analysts wondered whether it would be wise to bring back Curry in what has been a lost season for the Warriors, at 12-43 with the worst record in the NBA.
The notion of sitting Curry for the entire season was never in play.
“He’s perfectly healthy,” Kerr said Wednesday. “He’s in the prime of his career. If the point is because he might get hurt, then what’s the point of ever playing anything? People can get hurt any day. I guess the argument would be, ‘Well, we’re not going to the playoffs.’ So are we not trying to entertain our fans? We’re selling tickets to all these people who love basketball, and Steph Curry is one of the most amazing, graceful, exciting basketball players on earth.
“And if he were healthy and we didn’t present him to our fans and say, ‘Here you go. Here’s your gift for staying with us for this whole season,’ what would that say about us? That we don’t care about our fans?”
Curry Had a Rough Start Before Hand Injury
Curry averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists last season, as the Warriors earned a spot in the Finals before losing to Toronto. It was Golden State’s fifth straight appearance in the championship series.
During the loss to Toronto last June, the Warriors lost Klay Thompson to an ACL injury. Thompson’s rehab was laborious enough to require a full season of recovery. In the offseason, the team lost Kevin Durant, too, to free agency. That put Golden State on a wobbly footing from the start of this year, as the team went 1-3 even with Curry on the floor.
Curry struggled, averaging 24.0 points on 43.6 percent shooting and 26.7 percent 3-point shooting before the game in which he was injured. Golden State was 1-3 with Curry healthy.
Warriors Focused on Player Development
But Kerr said that, fairly early in the season, the team began to look at this year as one for player development, focusing on bringing along young potential contributors like Marquese Chriss, Damion Lee and Eric Paschall.
Chriss has been the starting center for the Warriors’ last nine games. Lee has started 26 of the 39 games he’s played, and Paschall has started in 24 of his 50 games.
The team also needs to get a sense of how new forward Andrew Wiggins, who arrived in a trade for D’Angelo Russell at the deadline, fits in with the group.
“This is a totally different year and I’ve learned I have to pay much closer detail to all the little things that I could take for granted with our team the last five years,” Kerr told Heavy.com recently. “We had largely a veteran team and they understood the basics of NBA basketball. We’d kind of break in a couple rookies every year, but we had this perfect support system and all these mentors for the young guys. Now we’ve got all these young guys playing at once. There’s a lot that can go wrong, a lot that can slide through the cracks.”
But he understands that this has not been an easy season for Warriors fans to stomach, not after the team’s run of recent success and not with a new building, the Chase Center, opening this year in San Francisco. Kerr said that a dose of Curry will remind Warriors fans of what could be coming for the team in the near future.
Thus, Curry will play.
“To me it’s never been a question,” Kerr said. “As soon as he’s ready, he’s coming back. Our fans deserve it. We need it as a team to springboard into next year, and it’s the right thing to do.”