And on the 23rd day of February 2021, in his 31st game as a member of the Warriors, Kelly Oubre Jr. came out and said what so many Warriors fans were thinking, and even saying, not so long ago.
That if this was the best he had, he could’ve stayed in Phoenix. That he was, um, trash.
Except Oubre, describing his relatively rapid transformation from least popular member of the team to one of the most appreciated, used more colorful language.
“Yeah, because when I was s---ty, I was just getting better each and every day,” he said Tuesday night in a video conference with reporters. “I was in the gym, working out, working on my craft, adding tools to my bag.
“Godspeed, in due time, those tools will be able to blossom and show.”
This was minutes after Oubre contributed 19 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists to a 114-106 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. He’s up to 13 consecutive games with double-figure scoring while averaging 20.1 points. His defense during this stretch has been solid, his scoring efficiency at career-high levels.
This is a few weeks after Oubre was subjected to all manner of insults from keyboards across Dub Nation. He couldn’t find a bucket with binoculars. He gambled too much on defense. Took questionable shots. And, every bit as noticeable, he had zero chemistry with his new teammates, particularly team catalyst Steph Curry.
This is three months after the Warriors and their fans rejoiced in the wake of franchise CEO Joe Lacob authorizing a massive financial commitment to obtain Oubre from the Suns in hopes of filling at least some of the void created by the loss of five-time All-Star Klay Thompson for the second consecutive season.
Curry acknowledges that the Warriors made a point of providing support for Oubre as he struggled.
“Everybody was doing that,” Curry said. “That’s what teammates do, and coaching staffs, especially for a newcomer that’s trying to figure it out and getting a lot of noise and commentary about how he’s playing.”
“And he has an expectation of how he’s supposed to play. When those don’t align, it is tough.”
Oubre shot 1-of-25 from deep in his first five games as a Warrior and spent most of the first four weeks as the worst 3-point shooter in the NBA.
He has spent the last four week -- 16 games -- as one of the more reliable 3-point shooters in the league, at 42.9 percent. Oubre is back around his career normal, which is all the Warriors wanted when they traded for him, at the cost of his $14.4 million salary and another $60 million or so in luxury tax.
“It’s awesome,” Curry said. “It’s helped us win games, and it’s going to continue to do that.”
What might be most welcome to the Warriors and their fans is the chemistry Oubre has developed with Curry. He has shed a tendency to invade Steph’s space and the result has been a rhythm that at times is downright gorgeous.
There might be no better example of that than their coordination in the final seconds of the game on Tuesday. With the Warriors leading by four and less than 40 seconds to play, Curry dribbled through several Knicks before threading a pass to a cutting Oubre for a dunk that pushed the lead to six with 30.8 seconds remaining.
“That’s just learning Steph,” Oubre said. “Learning how to find my spots on the court when he is red hot and teams are chasing him around like they do. That’s just capitalizing on the lack of discipline on the defensive end.”
It sounds simple. Maybe, after 30 games, it is.
“All the guys on the squad -- Kelly was the loudest -- but everybody is trending in the right direction in understanding how we do things and how we play,” Curry said.
The Warriors don’t have it all together. Certain elements still need to grow, to mature. But any chance at modest success this season is much greater now that the Curry-Oubre partnership has moved beyond a strangers-in-the-dark feel.