Warriors

Steph adjusts to new reality, teammates in preseason opener

Warriors

Steph Curry's long wait between his last NBA game and Saturday's preseason opener was slightly longer than that of his Warriors teammates.

Five days, to be exact.

Curry last played on March 5, making his long-awaited return to Golden State's lineup after breaking his hand on Oct. 30, 2019. On March 11, the NBA suspended its regular season amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

A lot has changed in the 282 days since Curry played at Chase Center, and that became clear when he arrived at the San Francisco arena.

"Definitely a weird environment pulling up to Chase Center with no fans around in the building, the new court configuration and all that type of stuff," Curry told reporters in a video conference Saturday after the Warriors' 107-105 exhibition win over the Denver Nuggets. "But once the ball tipped, it was kind of that good feeling that you have playing basketball."

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Curry missed his first shot -- a 28-foot, pull-up 3-pointer -- 1:49 into the game. He drained his second -- a 31-foot pull-up off a screen from Kevon Looney -- 74 seconds later.

The two-time NBA MVP played just over 21 minutes Saturday, scoring 10 points (on 3-of-10 shooting and 2-of-7 from beyond the arc), dishing out three assists and grabbing two steals. Curry also turned the ball over three times.

Empty stands weren't the only thing Curry had to adjust to in his first game action in over nine months, as he played with a largely unfamiliar cast of teammates. Outside of Looney, Curry had played no more than a handful of games with the vast majority of his teammates. Kent Bazemore, who began his career with the Warriors and is Curry's longtime friend, has been in Curry's supporting cast before, but they last played together over six years ago, before Curry won either of his MVP awards or any of his three championships.

 

"It takes time for sure," coach Steve Kerr said of adjusting to Curry's style. "He's so unique. There's nobody like him in the NBA, nobody who can play on and off the ball at that level and who creates that kind of havoc. I think with most players who come in, they're not used to the second half of the possession.

"They're sort of used to whatever the pattern is in the beginning, but as soon as maybe Steph gives up the ball, that's when the action really starts the way we play. And that's the tricky part for guys to figure out. Steph's movement off the ball in the latter part of every possession is really key for us, and that's where all the new guys have to figure out what their roles are."

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Curry pointed to a first-quarter turnover on an errant pass to Eric Paschall as an example of figuring out to play with his teammates and vice versa. Paschall cut to the basket while Curry passed as if Paschall would stay behind the 3-point line, and Curry's dish sailed out of bounds as it caught an outstretched Paschall off-guard.

That familiarity will come with time, Curry said, and the Warriors will have plenty of chances to develop it. Golden State has two road preseason games against the Sacramento Kings next week before opening the season with a road trip of four games in eight days.

Curry and his teammates aren't quite on the same page yet, but they certainly are off it. Bazemore said "probably 95 percent" of his teammates headed to the weight room after the win, following Curry's example as they have throughout an intense training camp.

"It starts at the top with Steph leading the charge," Bazemore said, prior to Curry's availability. "Working hard every day, getting shots up after practice. He's in there lifting right now. It's infectious when you get good character guys that love to work."