Warriors

Steph Curry's 31st birthday provides Warriors star a chance to reflect

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AP

Steph Curry's 31st birthday provides Warriors star a chance to reflect

Stephen Curry turns 31 today. With Year 30 behind him -- a “golden” birthday for No. 30 with big celebrations and media tie-ins -- I caught up with the Warriors star in Houston to hear his reflections on a special year.

The highlights of Year 30 included another NBA championship for the Warriors, accomplishing the feat in back-to back seasons. And his third child, a son named Canon, was born in July.

Here's our conversation:

Q: What was Year 30 like?

SC: Pretty legendary, in terms of how it started. A year ago, we had the amazing party my wife threw … myself, the team, the whole organization, family. It was cool energy entering my 30s.

On and off the court, it’s been some great things. Having a son, winning a championship. I just want to continue to evolve, even through the ups and downs of this year. It’s been enlightening for sure in terms of me being comfortable with who I am, and what I am. Just trying to grow in that.

When it comes to enlightenment and your comfort in your own skin, how have you grown as a man?

I wouldn’t say it was drastic. ... It was understanding who I am and being aware of the things around me. What I pour into myself. What I pay attention to. What moves me.

You start to really solidify the circle around you. The people who go on the journey with you ... that changes a lot over time. It’s been the peace among the chaos of what we do, the eyeballs on us as a team. The stress and pressures of playing at this level.

Do you feel the most solid you’ve ever felt as a person?

For sure. And I understand there’s always more room to grow. Getting challenged every single day. I try to protect my joy.

Protect your joy? What does that mean? Is it like casting off things that don’t enrich you?

It’s basically keeping the main things the main things. I like that saying because there’s so much that’s thrown at you that you can react to and get mad about, let it distract you. I try to stick to the stuff that makes me go, which is my faith, my family, my love to win.

And understand I’m not perfect by any stretch, so that’s the part that like ... you know that saying, “your s**t stinks too?” I’m confident in that. I’m not perfect.

What are the things you’re still hungry for?

I know that time is always ticking in the game of basketball. I want to win as much as I can for as long as I can, and do it with teammates that value it as much as I do.

At the end of the day, I never want to get to a place of complacency where the accomplishments we’ve had take the edge (away). That’s a constant battle.

Ayesha is turning 30 soon. When is her birthday?

The 23rd.

What is it like seeing 30 through [your wife’s] eyes? Because when I turned 30, that’s the first time I thought, "I’m an adult, I’m old."

It’s weird when you see someone you love turn 30 and you’ve known them since age 14 ... how she’s walking into this new stage of her life. I think she’s more on the “adult” part of what you just said. Everything has happened so fast in this last 10 years that we’ve been together in this environment. It’s about taking a second to self-check a little bit. She’s been pulled in so many different directions. We both have, in terms of what’s going on in our day-to-day lives.

One, we have to have a sense of appreciation, because it’s absolutely crazy to think about. And two, where do we go from here? Do you go into the motions of just letting things happen? Or do you take ownership of ... she calls it “protecting the peace.” It’s the same idea [as protecting the joy]. It’s eliminating as much of the chaos around you with the things that you can control. For her, that’s the goal. And it’s been cool to see.

NBA bubble showing Warriors how dangerous future of West will be

NBA bubble showing Warriors how dangerous future of West will be

After enjoying another championship summer, their third in four seasons, the Warriors two years ago embraced the prospect of a dynasty. They’d reduced all challengers to damp piles of ashes, and their core members had prime years remaining.

Why not grab two or three or four more Larry O’Brien trophies? Match or eclipse the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers, the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls and the Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs to become the most accomplished NBA franchise in the modern era. Sounded sweet.

But two years after sweeping the Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals, the Warriors have experienced consecutive seasons without the prize. Examining the current roster and studying the rest of the NBA, talk of a dynasty is delusional.

Recapturing the vibe that made them so fearsome can’t happen without Kevin Durant. The earliest they can return to the playoffs is April 2021, when Stephen Curry will be 33, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson each at least 31. Young enough to be prime, but too aged to anticipate two or three or four more Larry O’s.

That much is apparent in observing Western Conference teams in the NBA restart in Florida.

Any realistic path to another Warriors title requires a top-four seed in the West; only one of 72 NBA champs entered the playoffs outside the top four. The 1994-95 Houston Rockets fell to No. 6 when a March injury cost Hakeem Olajuwon 10 games, seven of which they lost. He returned for the postseason and punctuated it by abusing young Shaquille O’Neal in The Finals.

It’s not that the Warriors can’t win the 52 or so games required to reach the top four in 2021. It’s that as they’ve been hurting and healing, the bubble revealed that the competition was loading up.

In the 26 months since the Warriors last won it all, a lot has transpired to generate a shift in the balance of power in the West. Here is an alphabetical look:

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Los Angeles Clippers

Added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a team governed by Steve “I’m not afraid to pay the luxury tax for us to win” Ballmer. Their future draft outlook is dim, but free agents have a tendency to consider LA. Then, too, Ballmer likes to exploit the unique asset that is Jerry West.

Memphis Grizzlies

Added impressive rookies Ja Morant (turned 21 on Monday) and Brandon Clarke (23) to sophomore Jaren Jackson Jr. (20) and had the hubris to invade the playoff race. This team’s zealous youngsters are not firing blanks. Those are warning shots. They’re coming.

Dallas Mavericks

Added 21-year-old Luka Doncic, who is paired with 25-year-old Kristaps Porzingis. They snapped a three-year streak of missing the playoffs. And we all know Mark Cuban, whose ownership sparked a 12-year postseason streak, is salty about being a spectator when the lights are brightest.

Denver Nuggets

Added 22-year-old Michael Porter Jr. to a nucleus – Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris etc. – that makes the strongest argument as the best young bunch in the NBA. They’re deep, have a higher ceiling than the Grizzlies and, thanks to the 2019 Trail Blazers, have developed the emotional scar tissue caused by postseason heartbreak.

Phoenix Suns

Added a solid coach in Monty Williams and a load of young talent to catalyst Devin Booker, who was in his second season as a full-time starter when the Warriors last won it all. He’s not yet 24, but next season will be his sixth. Phoenix went 8-0 in the bubble with only three rotation players over 24. Team governor Robert Sarver might be the likeliest bet to spoil this.

Portland Trail Blazers

Added Gary Trent Jr., who is 21 and already an upgrade over recent young forwards, and Rodney Hood, though his effectiveness is in doubt coming off a torn Achilles tendon. But if Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic stay healthy – and they can squeeze another year out of Carmelo Anthony, they’ll be dangerous.

[RELATED: Haberstroh believes Wiggins' game 'will rise' if not traded]

That’s six teams, with no mention of five more: Utah Jazz, Lakers, Rockets, Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s not that those five won’t be factors, because they will be. At least for another year or two, but for most, there is legitimate concern about their futures being better than their presents.

There is no knowing if the Jazz can fix their internal issues; no knowing how the post-LeBron Lakers, assuming Anthony Davis stays, will look; no knowing how long the Rockets can contend with Harden-Westbrook leading a mini-ball outfit and a governor bleeding money; no knowing how the Spurs, with some young talent but missing the playoffs for the first time since the Ice Age, will respond if Gregg Popovich, 71, steps away.

The Thunder are thriving with Chris Paul now, but they can’t be a serious top-four threat until some of their 400 future first-round picks over the next six years enter the league and flourish.

For five consecutive seasons, the Warriors were perfect in postseason series within the conference. Crazy, eh?

Reality indicates those days are over. If the Curry-Green-Thompson trio is able to anchor another team that wins the West, much less The Finals, it will be their most remarkable feat of all.

Kevin Durant gets Finals revenge on Drake in 'Laugh Now, Cry Later' video

Kevin Durant gets Finals revenge on Drake in 'Laugh Now, Cry Later' video

Any Warriors fans who wanted to dunk on Drake before, during or after last year's NBA Finals can now live vicariously through Kevin Durant.

The Toronto Raptors global ambassador and rapper dropped the music video for "Laugh Now Cry Later" featuring Lil Durk on Thursday, with Drake spending most of it on Nike's Beaverton, Ore. campus. Former Raiders star Marshawn Lynch steals the show by tackling Drake in a brief appearance, but Durant absolutely dominates the Canadian star in a 1-on-1 game.

https://youtu.be/JFm7YDVlqnI

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Durant hasn't played in an NBA game since rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against Drake's Raptors, and his rehab is, at the very least, far enough along to best someone who once air-balled a 3-pointer warming up with Kentucky. By my count, Durant was 5-of-5 from the field with a steal, a block and two dunks over Drake.

Yes, I counted stats from a fake 1-on-1 game in a music video. What did you do with your Thursday night?

Drake traded barbs with Durant and the Warriors when Toronto and Golden State squared off in last year's Finals. There was Drake's "Home Alone" hoodie worn before Game 2, followed by Klay Thompson dropping a "See you in the Bay, Aubrey" after the Warriors' win that night. Then Drake trolled Thompson, and later Draymond Green, but it was all good-natured. Green and Drake met up between Games 1 and 2, while Steph Curry even gave the rapper a congratulatory call after the Raptors won their first NBA title.

[RELATED: Draymond wants you to know he liked Trent Jr. before you did]

Durant's no longer a Warrior, of course, with Game 5 marking his last appearance in a Golden State uniform before he joined the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. Drake said he was "wrecked" seeing Durant get hurt, and he even referenced the NBA star's eventual road back to the court in a verse on Rick Ross' "Gold Roses" last summer. It's fitting, then, that we'd get one of our first glimpses at Durant back on the court in a Drake video.

That it plays out like a fever-dream revenge fantasy written by one of their own has to be a cathartic, added bonus for Warriors fans.