Warriors

Steph Curry primed for another MVP season after Warriors' roster change

Steph Curry primed for another MVP season after Warriors' roster change

Forty months ago, Stephen Curry stood on a makeshift podium at Oracle Arena staring intently at his second straight MVP trophy.

In the months leading prior, Curry had put together one of the most efficient scoring seasons ever, earning the first unanimous MVP in league history while leading Golden State to a league-record 73 wins.

More than three years later, on a team with eight new faces and Klay Thompson out for the majority of the season, Curry is on fertile ground to replicate the best season of his career, and if you let him tell it, the thought has crossed his mind.

"At the end of the day, winning an MVP would be special," Curry said in a recent interview with Rachel Nichols on ESPN's "The Jump." "And it's something that -- I've experienced before and would love to experience again.

"I'd love to push the envelope," Curry added as he showed Nichols around the recently opened Chase Center -- the Warriors' new San Francisco home. "Push the limits a little bit."

With that in mind, Curry enters his eleventh season under semi-similar circumstances as he did in his illustrious second MVP campaign.

The Warriors were months removed from the 2015 NBA title and Curry was tasked with carrying the biggest offensive burden in the league.

Over the 82-game schedule, Curry had the highest player efficiency rating since 1991, while leading the league in 3-pointers made (402), steals (169), win-shares (17.9) and value over replacement (9.8) while finishing second in usage.

For the Warriors to stay afloat this season, a similar offensive load will be expected for Curry.

Two months ago, Kevin Durant opted to join the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade, prompting a restructuring in Golden State that brought eight new players to the roster, including all-star guard D'Angelo Russell. Adding to the conundrum, Thompson -- who tore his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June -- will be out for the majority of the season.

Under the current roster structure, the Warriors need Curry to be historically great once again, something he seems to be aware of.

"I always say, I'm playing like I'm the best player on the floor no matter what the situation is," Curry told Nichols. "That's my mentality. It might not mean I'm taking every shot, but that's the aggressiveness that I need to play with and the confidence I need to have."

The key to Curry's season will be his health. Over the last two seasons, Curry has missed a combined 44 games due to injury, including 31 during the 2017-18 season. Last season, it was a non-contact groin injury that forced the guard to miss more than two weeks. The season before, a series of ankle injuries undermined one of the best statistical seasons of his career, as he missed the most games since 2012 when ankle surgery ended his season.

[RELATED: Steph responds to KD's belief Warriors never accepted him]

If his health holds up, Curry should lead the MVP conversation for much of the season, and he could be staring at his third Maurice Podoloff Trophy next summer.

Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

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Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

Here's a sentence I didn't think I would write Sunday: Officiating decisions in the NBA All-Star Game brought out plenty of passion.

Not just for degenerate gamblers, mind you. The NBA's format change, where the winner had to score 24 more points (in honor of Kobe Bryant) in the fourth quarter than the leading score of the third, led to one of the best finishes to an All-Star Game in recent memory. The All-Stars brought it on defense, with Kyle Lowry drawing multiple offensive fouls. The intensity was perhaps best defined by Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding fellow All-Star captain and namesake LeBron James in isolation. 

Antetokounmpo's block on James originally was ruled a goaltend, prompting vehement disagreement from injured Warriors star Steph Curry watching with his wife Ayesha on vacation. Steph's reaction, posted on Ayesha's Instagram story, was catnip for Giannis-to-the-Warriors truthers. 

"Review it!" Curry, who played for Team Giannis in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, shouted. "That's not goaltending!"

Curry hasn't played since breaking his left hand just before Halloween, but the two-time MVP sent Warriors fans into a speculative frenzy when he appeared to say "Let's do it" to Antetokounmpo after Bucks beat the Dubs at Chase Center last month. Curry insisted he wasn't recruiting another lanky swingman, telling Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes he talked to Antetokounmpo about playing "Player Unknown's Battlegrounds."

Antetokounmpo, in case you haven't heard, can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Teams reportedly already are clearing the decks ahead of his free agency, including the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole wrote last month that the Warriors will be among the Greek superstar's suitors and do all they can to clear enough salary-cap space beforehand. 

[RELATED: Siakam jokes about Raps' anti-Steph defense in All-Star Game]

There are hurdles to clear. The Warriors already have four players (Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins) signed to max contracts, for one. They can't exactly bet on the same salary-cap spike that left enough room to sign Kevin Durant in 2016, either, considering the league's television contracts are a half-decade away from expiring and commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA expects to lose "hundreds of millions" of dollars China's backlash to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's support of Hong Kong protestors. 

Still, after seeing Sunday's shockingly competitive fourth quarter (this was an All-Star Game, after all), anything is possible in the NBA. 

Pascal Siakam jokes about using box-and-1 defense in NBA All-Star Game

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Pascal Siakam jokes about using box-and-1 defense in NBA All-Star Game

Pascal Siakam was ready to pull from the playbook his Toronto Raptors used to try to slow down Warriors guard Steph Curry ... in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game? 

Kawhi Leonard, Siakam's former Raptors teammate, channeled Curry at the United Center on Sunday. The 2019 NBA Finals MVP made eight 3-pointers Sunday, and a mic'd-up Siakam joked that the Nick Nurse-coached Team Giannis would turn to a strategy Nurse's Raptors briefly used against Curry last June: The box-and-1 defense. 

"No more 3s, bro!" Siakam joked. 

"Y'all gonna deny me?" Leonard laughed. 

"Box-and-1!" 

The Raptors used the strategy against Curry in Game 2 of the NBA Finals after Klay Thompson left with an injury. Kevin Durant hadn't returned at that point, either, leaving Curry as the Warriors' best -- and, arguably, only -- offensive option. 

Curry was held off the scoresheet in that fourth quarter, and the two-time MVP didn't attempt a single shot. He called the defense "janky" after the Warriors' win to even the series, but the Raptors again used the box-and-1 in a Game 4 win and kept Curry occupied with multiple defenders all series. The Warriors' depleted roster didn't help matters, but the Raptors' containment of Curry -- along with Leonard's MVP performance -- allowed Toronto to win its first NBA title. 

[RELATED: Dubs' Toscano-Anderson visits pivotal stop on NBA journey]

Siakam's joke didn't come to fruition Sunday, and it might not have worked anyway. Leonard led Team LeBron to a 157-155 All-Star Game win under the new format, scoring a game-high 30 points and winning the first-ever Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP. 

The fourth quarter got pretty competitive Sunday, with the All-Stars playing to a set score -- "first to 157," just as you did growing up -- rather than counting down the clock. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry even took multiple charges! We'll have to wait until (at least) next year to see if that competitiveness extends to truly employing a Steph-stopping defense.