SAN FRANCISCO -- No matter where this Warriors season is heading, or how inelegant they will look at times, Steph Curry knows it can be worse. That it actually has been worse.
There have been many Warriors seasons over the past quarter-century with no foreseeable improvement, atrocious teams mired in competitive quicksand with no discernable way out.
Of those players on the Warriors roster this season, only Curry knows. He experienced it as a rookie in 2009-10. He remembers it without fondness. And he firmly believes this woebegone season is not like the one that introduced him to the NBA 10 years ago.
“It was tougher when we first got here, for sure,” Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday. “For one, I didn’t know what I was doing. We were the young guys trying to figure it out. It’s hard when you don’t know what you don’t know because it was that early in that process.
“That first window,” he adds, “it was rough.”
The Warriors in 2008-09, the year before Curry arrived, were as much a circus as a basketball team. They were 29-53. Ownership was inept. General manager Chris Mullin was dumped six weeks before the draft, though his authority already had been stripped by team president Robert Rowell in the wake of a disagreement over discipline involving Monta Ellis, who the previous summer sustained an off-season injury while riding a Moped.
Coach Don Nelson, always eager to flex his muscle, slipped into the power vacuum created by Mullin’s departure. Nellie had been around long enough to know was foundering, but the only chance he had of becoming the NBA’s all-time winningest coach is if he remained on the job.
The Warriors had gone 11 years without an All-Star and had made one playoff appearance in the previous 15 years.
Such a mess were the Warriors that Curry made it known he’d rather be drafted elsewhere. Nelson recognized his gifts and selected him anyway. Ellis, a slightly built shooting guard, was vocal in expressing his skepticism about teaming with the new guy.
Those days, Curry says, do not compare to these days. This is the third window, coming after a second window that yielded seven straight playoff appearances and five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
They have one All-Star, forward Draymond Green, on the court. They have another All-Star, combo guard D’Angelo Russell, who could return within the next two weeks. They have two more All-Stars, guards Klay Thompson and Curry, who possibly could return this season but definitely should be ready next season.
With an infusion of young talent added over the summer, Curry clearly likes the potential of this team. There is reason to expect appreciable improvement.
“Yeah, because I know our core and who we’re going about it with – myself, Draymond, Klay and D-Lo – and what we’re all capable of,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for the young guys to develop, but it’s interesting. We’re always prisoners of the moment, so it’s hard to see the big picture.
“In the normal NBA journey, there will be years when you have to figure it out. It doesn’t always work out, so you have to bounce back. But we’re in the middle of this, and it’s hard to put into perspective what that is, as we go forward. We’re all optimistic about what we can get back to once we’re all healthy and are able to see what our team will be.”
The Warriors were 26-56 in Curry’s rookie season. Ellis led the team in scoring (25.5 points per game), while Curry led it games played (80). Forward Corey Maggette had nearly 172 assists and 168 turnovers.
The 2019-20 Warriors, with a 4-16 record, might not win 26 games. They might not win 20.
But they have legitimate reason to believe better days are ahead. There is a foundation. The ownership group is committed to making perennial playoff appearances, if not being an annual contender.
This season may be destined to end in April, but there are Mays and possibly Junes in its future. That could not have been said about the teams Curry experienced as his NBA baptism.