OAKLAND -- Postseason basketball is about to get considerably easier for Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant and, well, the rest of the Warriors.
Stephen Curry, sidelined for the past five weeks with a knee injury, could rejoin the Warriors as soon as Saturday for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinal series against the New Orleans Pelicans.
After going through his first controlled scrimmage since mid-March on Thursday, Curry was upgraded to questionable.
“He did everything and looked good,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Curry’s return is significant largely for his impact on offense, as his mere presence puts immeasurable pressure on opposing defenses. Nobody spreads the floor quite like he does.
Though he wasn’t needed to put away the Spurs in the first round, Curry might be essential against a white-hot New Orleans team that rolled up points (114.5 per game, 114.7 offensive rating) while containing guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in their first-round sweep of the Trail Blazers.
As good as Lillard and McCollum are, Curry and Thompson would pose an altogether deeper set of problems. Thompson’s length (he’s 6-foot-7) and strength will be tough to the Pelicans to handle. With Curry, the challenge is defending his ability to shoot from deep as well as he penetrates.
The Warriors posted an astonishing 120.4 offensive rating in the 51 games that Curry played in the regular season. Without him, they dropped to just above 106. Those statistics illustrate the Curry Effect.
As Durant has said on multiple occasions: “Steph is the system” with the Warriors. On a team for which any one of three players can ring up 30 or more points in a game, Curry is the centerpiece.
With him, they can take the floor knowing they can outscore just about any team. Without him, they know they that would be an exceedingly tall task.
“We were excited,” Thompson said of seeing Curry on the practice court. “I know he is very eager to play. He’s a competitor, so I know that sitting down kills him. We can‘t wait for him to get back, whenever that is.”
It may be Saturday.
“What we have to do is see how his body responds the rest of the day and put him through another practice (Friday),” Kerr said. “He needs to string together a few good days, but it was very positive today.”
Curry is ready. He closed his practice session, supervised by assistant coach Bruce “Q” Fraser, by shouting, “We back, Q! We back.” The two then leapt into the air, bumping chests and giggling.