Steve Kerr no longer searches for superlatives to describe Stephen Curry’s work this season. The audacity, the shooting, the impact. It’s all fabulous but so repetitive that the Warriors’ coach probably wishes he could reach for a rubber stamp.
There is, however, an aspect of Curry’s performance that is no less impressive but exists so far under the radar that it easily could go unnoticed.
Not once during this second-rate Warriors season has Curry lifted a finger, much less pointed it, toward one of his teammates or the front office.
And, oh, could he.
When Curry’s superpowers took a temporary breather in the second half Tuesday night in New Orleans, Golden State’s offense suffocated on its shortcomings. Open looks for others yielded little, the rest of the eight-man roster collapsed and the Warriors gulped down a distasteful 108-103 loss to the Pelicans.
“They made plays,” Curry said. “I got cold in the third and fourth quarter. Got pretty good looks and that kind of make-or-miss situation just went in their favor tonight.
“It would have been nice to finish off the road trip with a win, but we’ve got to rejuvenate and overcome that. It’s a short rotation on Thursday, so it’s the same thing.”
Not an ounce of blame toward anyone on the payroll for the roster composition or declining to fill two vacant spots.
With Curry scoring 35 of his game-high 37 points in the first three quarters, he needed others to have his back. Andrew Wiggins delivered 13 of his 26 points after halftime. Nobody else had more than five (Draymond Green).
Golden State’s other shooters had their chances but couldn’t come to the rescue. Shooting guards Kent Bazemore, Mychal Mulder and Jordan Poole combined to shoot 3-of-11 in the second half, 8-of-28 for the game. Three more makes among them, it’s a win.
“We got some open looks,” said Juan Toscano-Anderson, who scored three points on 1-of-3 shooting. “We got some great looks. Steph got some great looks. I had a great look.”
Curry’s presence ensures open looks for his teammates. It’s the norm. Sometimes they make them, other times they do not. On Tuesday, when Curry needed a hand, they did not.
And Curry simply carries on, putting up MVP numbers despite an emaciated roster, much of which is filled by contracts designated “rookie” or “minimum” or “two-way.”
Asked if, with six games remaining and the Warriors jockeying for play-in tournament position, he’d like to see the front office supply reinforcements, Curry said he’s very open to the idea.
“If it makes sense and can help us, absolutely,” he said.
That’s a long way from shouting about getting a “(expletive) playmaker,” as LeBron James once bellowed in Cleveland. It’s even further away from glancing at the roster and deciding to sleepwalk while demanding a trade, as James Harden did in Houston.
Curry is not built like that. He does all he can to lift the teammates he has. He knows that Green is doing the same thing this season and, so is the coaching staff, despite no realistic route to glory.
“All you can do is play with the guys who are here,” Kerr said.
“I’m really, really proud of the group. You’ve got guys putting everything on the line night after night. Being so shorthanded, it does put a lot of pressure on those guys. But it’s the way it is.”
The Warriors, like all NBA teams, are coping with the ongoing pandemic and its protocols. But there is more. Like losing five-time All-Star Klay Thompson for the second consecutive season, which prompted the last-minute trade for Kelly Oubre Jr. There is the in-out-in-out-in-out season of rookie James Wiseman. Eric Paschall has played in 39 of 66 games, Oubre has missed 11 and Damion Lee is up to nine missed games.
It’s a season of ruts, roadblocks and barriers.
“It’s challenging in the sense that we’re trying to build chemistry with a brand-new team, a lot of young guys and new faces,” Curry said. “The inconsistencies have been tough to deal with, just because of the fluctuations with our roster and injuries.”
Curry soldiers on. If he is bothered, his teammates don’t feel it and observers wouldn’t know it. This restraint, coming from a three-time NBA champion and two-time MVP, is no less remarkable than the silly statistics he is laying down.
“He’s an amazing player, an amazing teammate, an amazing person to coach,” Kerr said repeating the superlatives because, well, it has come that.
If there were such a thing as an MVT award -- Most Valuable Teammate -- Curry this season would win in a walk.