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.

Warriors vs. Pelicans watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

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Warriors vs. Pelicans watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

Sooner or later, the Warriors eventually would run into an opponent keeping doctors as busy as they are. That will be the case Sunday afternoon in New Orleans when they face Pelicans.

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 3 p.m. PT, with tipoff from Smoothie King Center scheduled for 4:10.

Even with an injury list that runs seven deep, the wounded Warriors (2-11) might not find a better opportunity to snap a losing streak that has reached six games. Their first win of the season was a 134-123 triumph on Oct. 28 at New Orleans.

The Pelicans (3-9) have seen their roster diminished by more than half, leaving them without at least three starters, as well as three more rotation players. Of their top 10 players, only point guard Jrue Holiday and shooting guard E’twaun Moore are healthy.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors

F Eric Paschall
F Draymond Green
C Willie Cauley-Stein
G Glenn Robinson III
G Ky Bowman

Pelicans

F Kenrich Williams
F Nicolo Melli
C Jason Hayes
G E’twaun Moore
G Jrue Holiday

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (left hand fracture), G Jacob Evans III (left adductor strain), G Damion Lee (right hand non-displaced fracture), F Kevon Looney (neuropathy), F Alen Smailagic (right ankle sprain) and G Klay Thompson (left ACL rehab) are listed as out.

Pelicans: G Frank Jackson (left neck contusion) and G JJ Redick (left great toe sprain) are listed as questionable. F/C Derrick Favors (lower back spasms) and F Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness) are listed as doubtful. G Lonzo Ball (right Adductor strain), G Josh Hart (left knee/ankle sprain), F Darius Millier (right Achilles rehab), C/F Jahlil Okafor (left ankle sprain) and F Zion Williamson (right knee surgery rehab) are listed as out.

[RELATED: Dubs' Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills]

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: The Warriors are back to nine available players. ... Russell’s absence leaves them with Bowman as the only point guard on the roster, so he might play at least 35 minutes. As was the case against Boston on Friday, Green will assume many of the ball-handling duties. ... The Warriors scored a season-high 134 points in the Oct. 24 game, with six players scoring in double figures. Three of those players (Curry, Lee and Russell) are unavailable today. ... The Warriors outrebounded the Pelicans 61-41 in the previous game.

Pelicans: If every player on the injury list is ruled out before tipoff, the Pelicans will be down to eight available players. ... Under new vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, the Pelicans over the summer separated their training/medical staff from that which also serves the NFL's Saints. The hope was that their previous misfortune with injuries would abate. ... Though rookie center Jaxson Hayes has played in all 12 games, he has yet to make a start. That could change today. He totaled 19 points (9-of-11 FG) in 24 minutes against the Warriors on Oct. 24.

Officials: Ken Mauer (crew chief), Mark Lindsay, Leon Wood.

Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

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Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

When Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein smiles on the court, he puts the gold in Golden State. His teeth shine with customized mouthguards that look like grills. 

“I ain’t think it would look that good, but they looked real," Cauley-Stein described. "They fit real."

The grills are standard plastic mouthguards, embellished with extra bling created by a jeweler friend who makes specialized pieces for athletes. They’re molded in a tray, just like braces.

Cauley-Stein has been wearing a real grill since college. He keeps up the look at work with a collection of mouthguard grills in rose gold, white gold and crystal, with the crystal version marked with two X’s. 

The two X’s are for a friend who passed away this summer.

“His name is Rexx, two X’s, so I’m carrying that on,” Cauley-Stein explained. 

[RELATED: Slew of Warriors injuries hinders young core's development]

Cauley-Stein also has two X’s tattooed over his left eye. His skin is a canvas of tattoos that tell the story of his life. The gleam on his teeth gives him one more way to stand out. 

“A lotta people are like, ‘This dude doesn’t care about hoops, he’s got a freakin’ grill in his mouth!’ But it’s a mouthpiece!” he exclaimed.