This season has been a deja vu of sorts for the 3rd year NBA star point guard Stephen Curry. Simply put, that means this season has been a disaster for him thus far.
Just after the lock out ended, I was given the honor of having a chat session with Curry. Long story short, Curry held a contest and I won. During the conversation, I asked him my most concerning question which was the status of his surgically repaired right ankle.
“100% ready to go,” he said.
When I told him how relieved I was of hearing that news, he somewhat joked that he “probably did it once a week last season”, but that surgery was definitely the fixer upper.
Fast forward to his second preseason game against the Kings, without any warning or sign of a significant turn, Curry’s ankle gave out while guarding Jimmer Fredette with less than a minute left in the first half. He did the all-too-familiar limp and swing of both arms before crumpling to the floor. It was a demoralizing and confusing moment for Curry who did all the right things up to that point and had no reason to question whether he would re-injure the ankle again. The scariest thing about the ankle turn was that it did not happen on a basketball play nor did it look like a typical sprain.
Thankfully, the MRI showed no structural damage. He sat out the next 4 days without any basketball activity before making the decision to give it a go for the season opener against the new look Clippers. Many were concerned that Curry was coming back too soon. He was clearly rusty as he shot 2-12 from the floor and even missed his lone free throw attempt. The Warriors ended up losing the game 105-86, as they lost complete control down the stretch. The great news, however, was that Curry’s ankle survived and seemed mostly okay.
Then came the second game of the season where Curry absolutely torched Derrick Rose and the Bulls on his way to a spectacular night. He was well on his way to a triple double with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, and 6 steals. This was a clear sign that his ankle was, in fact, feeling much better. Even clearer was the fact that Curry had the potential and ability to be a dominant point guard in this league all the while co-existing with Ellis, proving doubters like Tim Kawakami and Matt Steinmetz wrong.
However, disaster struck again with a little more than half way to go in the fourth quarter. He went up for a floater on a fast break and as he came down, he stepped on Kyle Korver’s sorry ass foot (I hate when players are careless about where they leave their foot against another person coming down from the air) and sprained his surgically repaired right ankle. It was a disheartening moment for Curry and Warriors fans yet again. The Warriors barely hung on to win the game, but the win was completely dampened by Curry’s situation. The one positive to take from the situation was that for once, he sprained his ankle on a basketball play. All tests came back negative once again, and he would only sit out one game against the Knicks.
He came back against the Sixers going 9-15 from the field for 21 points but also turned the ball over 5 times. The Warriors were offensively challenged all around as Monta Ellis was out of the lineup and David Lee had an incredibly cold shooting night, on their way to the worst blowout of the season.
He finally had an awful game against the Suns without any reasonable excuse. He reached and committed needless and costly fouls on his way to 5 fouls in 23 minutes of play. I’m sure he heard what he needed from Mark Jackson in regards to that game. It felt like he wanted no part of the game, and the Warriors lost.
Then came his second spectacular performance of the season against the Spurs on the road. Tony Parker could do nothing to contain Curry as he cruised through 3 quarters with a cool 20 points, 8 assists and 2 turnovers and well on his way to a 30/10 game, before the final disaster to date happened.
Curry came up with a loose ball, looked up to make his signature full court pass for his ninth assist, and suddenly threw the ball away and crumpled to the floor. All anyone could think was “oh lord not again”. Indeed, Curry sprained his ankle for the 3rd time in less than 2 weeks. Worst of all, he did it once again without anyone near him. His foot simply seemed to slip a bit as he put pressure on it and the ankle was tweaked just like that, new shoes and all. The basketball world may never have seen this kind of situation in the past. I certainly never have.
Everyone held their breath for yet another MRI. Once again, it somehow came back negative. The team held him out for nearly two weeks this time, and he would end up missing 8 games, much like last season when he sprained his ankle on his own against the Spurs. I wasn’t kidding when I said deja vu. The difference between last season and this season is that he was playing with torn ligaments last season, while it is structurally sound this season.
Many theories have been brought up regarding his ankle and why it keeps happening from the type of shoes he wears to just the way he steps on his foot with every step. He will certainly have to address and study these issues in the off season.
Curry has been back now for 4 games. With the exception of one game, he has generally been inconsistent all around. It is clear that he is still not 100% from the ankle sprains. This is evident when he drives to the basket, which he hasn’t really done at all unless he is wide open. He is unsure of which foot to take off of and in turn, loses focus on finishing the actual layup.
This is not the Curry I know. This is not the Curry that goes up for dunks(albeit softly) on fast breaks. This is not the Curry that had five 30 point 10 assist games in his rookie season, bested only by Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. This is not the Curry that can get into the paint to disrupt opponent’s defenses and make certain big men look silly with his signature fakes. I can only wait for him to feel more comfortable with his ankle before we see the real Curry that can still dominate for the rest of this season. When healthy, he has the talent to be a top 5 point guard in the league.
Honestly, I won’t be able to watch another Warriors game comfortably without cringing at every Curry flail for the next 5 games or so. If this is how I feel watching him, imagine how he must feel. It has to still be in his head. The believers are waiting for the ankle to feel better so that he can play more games like he did against the Bulls and the Spurs and help save the Warriors season. I am certainly one of those believers. The balance of the Warriors season depends on the return of Curry in a healthy state of mind. If the ankle bothers him throughout the season, we won’t see the real Curry and the Warriors season will be lost once again.
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