There. He said it. Stephen Curry’s minutes will not be increasing says Steve Kerr, who as Warriors coach is both judge and jury. And he doesn’t give a whit about those incessant pleas from a segment of the fan base.
“I'm into the long game,” Kerr said Monday night, after a 105-100 loss to the Spurs in San Antonio. “We're counting on having Steph here for a long time – for many, many years ahead. And I'm not interested in grinding through this season, which is already a very difficult season, given the COVID regulations and just the nature of the games themselves. These eerie, empty stadiums.
“For me, for our organization, we're not throwing Steph out there for 40 minutes to chase wins.”
Within that statement are two emphatic messages, the first of which relates directly to Curry’s longevity and Kerr’s unwillingness to endanger it.
“We’ve got another game (Tuesday),” Kerr said. “We want Steph to be playing at a high level for many years. So, we're going to stay very disciplined and try to keep him at that 34-35-minute mark.”
Curry is a young 32, showing zero signs of slowing, but this is a wise move.
The second message from Kerr was a stark conveyance of the franchise’s priority for this season. Which, in short, is that 2020-21 is a bridge to a better 2021-22.
This season is about seeking a measure of cohesion, developing young players and well enough to compete with contenders. To be as good as reasonably possible, rather than sell out for a chance to beat longshot odds.
It’s not a full surrender, but it’s at least a conditional sacrifice. Though Curry, personally, is having no part of that. He has had the two highest-scoring games of his career this season and over the past nine is shooting an astonishing 52.4 percent.
All of which yielded for the Warriors four wins in that span, and an overall record of 12-12.
Asked if frustrations of this season, in which the team has not been able to escape mediocrity, might require occasional outreach to Curry – and, presumably, Draymond Green – to offer reminders of the big picture, the coach said that was not necessary.
“Steph is a grownup,” Kerr said. “He’s an incredible teammate. He has full awareness of what we're doing right now and what this season is about. We're bringing along young players and trying to be a playoff team and make a push. Trying to do all that at once. Steph’s all in. He never gets down.”
Curry offered a bit of understated dispute but made it clear that he’s not going to be twisting any arms to request another two or three minutes a game.
“Of course, I want to play as many minutes as possible,” he said. “Of course, I want to keep subtly letting them know how I feel, based on a night-to-night basis.
“But we’ve got to be in a position where we do things throughout 48 minutes that that plan of attack works more nights than not. If we have to make certain reads and decisions, you kind of make those calls. But it can’t be situation where that’s the nightly conversation. It is 72 games, and we obviously know that.”
Curry, like his coach, sees the long game but doesn’t always feel it. He has a hunter’s mentality. He wants to stalk, and every opponent is prey. That’s not something that goes away because the franchise is prioritizing development over naked pursuit.
“Losing sucks,” Curry said. “We all know that. No matter what the reason is.”
If there is one thing Curry and Kerr are in total agreement on, it is that this team is not built for naked pursuit. The only true big man is a 19-year-old rookie. The shooting guard is an athletic marvel not always wired into the moment – and will be a free agent in the offseason.
Kelly Oubre Jr. looks less like a man making a home in the Bay Area than a nice placeholder for Klay Thompson.
So, everybody has to cope with what is, rather than what might be – because this team does not meet the standard set six years ago. This franchise, with this roster, is not visualizing champagne in the summer.
That’s the reality. And altering Curry’s regimen to squeeze an additional two or three minutes per game not only won’t change it but surely would invite peril.