Warriors can't wait to see Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins play together

Warriors can't wait to see Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins play together

SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew Wiggins has played six games with the Warriors now, integrating himself well on the fly. His first came two days after being traded to Golden State on Feb. 6 and he hasn’t stopped for a breath since, merging into his new lane without many glaring mistakes.

He has shot well, been a steady scorer and played far better defense that one might expect. That has been true each outing, including Tuesday’s 112-94 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Chase Center.

That’s all swell and fine and sorta good. It’s also not nearly as important in this lost Warriors season as what’s coming on the horizon.

Wiggins will take the floor with Steph Curry and Draymond Green, maybe as early as Sunday, and we’ll start to see what the Warriors could look like next season when healthy and expected to contend.

Green has been around for three games with Wiggins. Those not living under a rock sporting ear plugs know Curry has been out since Oct. 30 with a fractured left hand but is nearing a return to action as the season winds down. The Warriors hope it’s Sunday but, barring a significant setback, Curry’s coming soon to a basketball court near you.

Putting Wiggins and Curry together down the stretch will add value to a season where the remaining games are primarily relevant for draft positioning.

“The good thing about Steph coming back is that he’ll get a chance to play with him,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “One of the reasons for the trade is that we could plug Andrew in at the 3. We lost so many of our wings over the last year, between Andre [Iguodala], Klay [Thompson] and Shaun [Livingston] and Kevin [Durant].

"To be able to plug him in at the 3 and have him guard his position is a big deal. He has done a good job defensively for us."

[RELATED: Kerr says 'hope' is Warriors' Curry can return on March 1]

The full band won’t get back together until next season. Thompson has been shelved while rehabbing a torn ACL but getting the other three on the court is important as the Warriors try to rebound from significant injuries and personnel losses.

“When we plug Steph back in, we’re starting to put the puzzle back together,” Kerr said. “It will be good to have Steph, Andrew and Draymond in place. Next year we’ll add Klay to that. We’re starting to feel what our team will actually look like.”

Curry is excited about that prospect.

"He's a walking 20 points and the intangibles he can bring in terms of speed," Curry said on Saturday. "Cutting, his length on defense, all of those things will be a fun process to build that chemistry."

"… You look at our lineup and it makes sense in terms of the position that he plays and the skill set that he brings, and obviously with me and Klay coming back healthy, trying to predict what that would look like. He has shown some bright spots about what he's going to be able to do on the floor, and I'm excited about it."

While subtle signs of progress and integration into the system as currently manned shouldn’t be ignored, there are exciting times ahead when Curry comes back.

“That’s the bigger thing, playing with the guys he’ll be in the lineup with next year,” Kerr said. “I think he’ll fit in nicely with those guys.

“He’s doing a nice job executing the offense and he knows what he’s doing out there, but we’re shorthanded right now. As we get healthier, I think you’ll see him fitting in better because you’ll see him fitting into his role.”

Warriors' historic 2017 greatness punctuated by Game 2 Finals win vs. Cavs

Warriors' historic 2017 greatness punctuated by Game 2 Finals win vs. Cavs

Programming note: Relive Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals when NBC Sports Bay Area re-airs the Warriors' win over the Cavaliers on Saturday, March 28 at 8 p.m. PT.

Their mission began three months before they convened in Oakland for late-September training camp. Winning alone was not going to be enough, not for these Warriors, not for this season. They wanted to exact revenge for all the negative noise.

All the chatter surrounding Kevin Durant upon his July 4th decision to leave Oklahoma City to join the team that defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western ConferencefFinals five weeks earlier.

At the start of the 2017 playoffs, the Warriors turned punitive. The goal was to leave opponents face-down at midcourt, twitching from head to toe. They swept the first three rounds, psychologically dominating the Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Spurs before throttling them with offense and burying them with defense to stand with the greatest machines in sports history.

One series, The Finals, against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, remained between the Warriors and their second championship in three seasons -- and avenging the events of the 2016 Finals.

After Game 1, in which the Warriors rolled to a 113-91 blowout, Game 2 –- which NBC Sports Bay Area is re-airing Saturday night at 8 p.m. -- came with a subplot that lent curiosity.

Coach Steve Kerr was back.

Kerr had stepped away six weeks earlier, before Game 3 of the first round in Portland, to give his body a break from the pain and misery stalking him after two back surgeries in the summer of 2015. Lead assistant Mike Brown had stepped in as interim head coach and gone 10-0.

Kerr’s return, to a rousing ovation at Oracle Arena, was a new wrinkle for a streaking squad. Would it inspire? Would it disrupt? Well, the Warriors opened Game 2 in a slumber, trailing by five less than two minutes into the game.

“I heard when I got to the arena that he was doing his press conference,” Steph Curry said of Kerr’s return, which was announced less than two hours before tipoff.

The Warriors committed eight turnovers in the first quarter -- each starter gifted one within the first eight minutes -- but refocused and reeled off a 22-7 run, taking a 40-34 lead into the second quarter.

The Cavs, however, would not give up. Down as much as 12 early in the second quarter, they cut it to one before going into halftime trailing 67-64.

The Warriors then remembered their mission. To squash without remorse. Curry and Durant combined for 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field, including 5-of-10 from distance, after intermission. Durant submitted game-highs in points (33) and rebounds (13) rebounds. Curry totaled 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to achieve the first postseason triple-double of his career in the Warriors' 132-113 win.

"It seemed like it's personal for both of them,” Draymond Green said of Curry and Durant. "And you’re talking about two of the greatest players that we got in this world locked in the way they are? That's why we're up 2-0."

No doubt it was. Curry surely remembered the final seconds of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, when his snug defense on Kyrie Irving could not prevent the Cavs guard from draining the game- and title-winning shot at Oracle, forcing the Warriors to live with being the only team to blow a 3-1 lead in The Finals in NBA history.

Durant was, for his part, acutely aware that this series was, in the eye of many, about he and James. The loser would face a long summer, the winner would own bragging rights while also punching a hole through the perception of the loser.

Going up 2-0, Curry and Durant were halfway to the sweep they so fervently desired.

“It's been a great run,” Kerr said, assessing the team’s 14th consecutive postseason win. “But none of that matters unless we can finish the job with this series. "Trust me, we know. It was 2-0 last year. We lost."

They didn’t lose this time. After winning Game 3 in Cleveland three days later, the Warriors fell 137-116 in Game 4 and returned home to take Game 5 and settle for the “gentleman’s sweep.”

[RELATED: The night Klay earned his reputation as a bonafide flamethrower]

They are the only team in NBA postseason history to finish with a 16-1 record (the 2001 Lakers went 15-1). Twelve of the wins were by double digits, five by at least 20 points.

“You cannot simulate what they bring to the table, no matter how many days you have to prepare,” said James, practically reaching for a white flag to raise. “I’ve seen a lot of great teams, and they rank right up there.”

The Game 2 victory eased minds of those concerned about whether Kerr’s return would be an issue. Moreover, it was one of 16 postseason messages sent by the Warriors to the rest of the NBA and all those who had been critical of KD and the franchise.

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Steph Curry's greatest strength isn't shooting

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Steph Curry's greatest strength isn't shooting

If you ask most fans, they would say Steph Curry's greatest strength is his shooting ability.

After all, the Warriors' point guard owns the single-season NBA record for 3-pointers made. He's a few years away from owning the all-time record for most made triples.

But for future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, Curry's greatest strength comes when he actually doesn't have the basketball in his hands.

During an Instagram Live chat, Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union-Wade were asked to comment on current NBA players. When they got to Curry, Union started.

"So everybody talks about, obviously Steph can shoot," Union said. "I mean, Steph is ... Steph Curry is one of those people, everything you imagine Steph Curry is, he actually is in real life."

Wade continued that thought and then offered his analysis of Curry.

"He is the nicest person in the world," Wade said. "But one of Steph's greatest strengths that a lot of people ... some people, but a lot of people don't because they talk about all the threes and ball-handling is Steph never stops moving off the ball. You guys see when Steph gives the ball up, that's when he's his most dangerous. And that's crazy to think, right? Because when he has the ball, he's unguardable.

"But when he does not have the ball, forget about it. He's like Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen, those guys when it comes to conditioning and shape that he's in and the way he's able to run. That's when he gets scary, when he gives the ball up."

Here's some evidence in case you need a reminder of Curry's ability to move without the basketball:

After Wade's final game against the Warriors in the Bay Area on Feb. 10, 2019, he swapped jerseys with Curry.

[RELATED: Steph, NBA facing harsh reality]

But in his last game ever against the Warriors, on Feb. 27, 2019, Wade broke Curry's heart with a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.