Stephen Curry began last season in a Warriors starting lineup with three strangers and a familiar face under a microscope. His longtime backcourt partner, leg immobilized, could only watch. The glory years were gone, his basketball prime diminishing.
There was such doubt about these Warriors that many observers concluded they wouldn’t get anywhere near the playoffs and were destined for more losses than wins.
Curry’s response was to grab a sledgehammer and use it in dissent.
He spent five months demolishing dark preconceptions about the Warriors and destroying any assumption that his career was fast-tracking toward its epilogue.
It was during that time that the man with two NBA MVP awards built a resumé that placed him among the top three candidates for earning the honor in 2020-21.
In the season in which he turned 33, Curry averaged 32.0 points per game, joining only Michael Jordan as players to lead the NBA in scoring at such an “advanced” age. He averaged 5.3 3-pointers per game, breaking his own NBA record. He became the fourth player in league history with multiple championships, MVP awards and scoring titles.
Curry in April averaged 37.2 points per game, became the third player in the last 30 years with 13 games of at least 30 points and the first to average at least 35 points for a full month while also posting the righteous 50-40-90 trifecta. His 96 triples are a record for any single month. He was named Western Conference Player of the Month for April and again in May, becoming the first Warrior to earn such a back-to-back.
“I don’t think I’ve put together a run like that, with that much attention, in my career,” Curry said after the season. “It’s a really rewarding experience. It all comes back to the work that you put in during the offseason. The great ones figure out a way to adapt and understand what the challenge is and not complain about it, not make excuses, but just go out and hoop. That’s what I really locked in on.”
The Warriors closed the season with a rush, finishing 39-33, but missed the playoffs by the slimmest of margins. The way in which Curry carried them answered any questions about his longevity and continued impact.
So, now, of course, he has raised his personal bar for next season. One doesn’t end one season by sprinting into the MVP race simply to spend the next tumbling into irrelevance
Curry becomes eligible this offseason to sign a four-year supermax contract extension worth $215.4 million. Team president Bob Myers has expressed confidence in completing the paperwork that will keep the franchise touchstone around until 2026, when he’ll be 38.
Don’t be against him making an impact even then.
Curry last season learned how to play with Andrew Wiggins and made progress in his coexistence with rookie center James Wiseman as well as guard Kelly Oubre Jr., whose return is very uncertain. Draymond Green, so scrutinized at the start, proved he still can orchestrate an offense while also being one of the league’s most effective defenders.
Five-time NBA All-Star guard Klay Thompson, after missing two seasons, is on track to return early in 2021-22.
And the brain trust, possibly holding two lottery draft picks, is expected to pursue veterans capable of making an immediate contribution.
Will these factors be enough for the Warriors to regain elite status? There surely will be outsider questions, again, as there was last fall.
This time, however, none of those questions should be about Curry.