SAN FRANCISCO – Stephen Curry’s worst and most detested enemy is back with a vengeance, and it’s not the Lakers or the Rockets or the Clippers or the Trail Blazers.
The one that followed him through his early NBA years, the caveat that always seemed to serve as a fair rebuttal to his spectacular work on the basketball court.
That he can’t stay healthy. That he is, well, soft.
It is, like many reputations, not precisely true, as anyone, teammate or otherwise, who has spent any time around Curry would know. Asked several years ago to describe something about Curry that most people don’t know, Draymond Green scrolled right past the practical jokester, the popcorn addiction and the Christian hip-hop devotee.
“How tough he is,” said Green, who knows toughness when he sees it.
Curry’s future was considered so perilous that the Warriors in October 2012 were able to sign this nascent superstar to a contract extension that was reasonable at the time: $44 million, over four years. The Warriors offered it because he missed 56 games the previous season and was six months removed from surgery on his right ankle.
Having endured enough injuries to both ankles to open the question of how much career he might have, and whether he’d be able to meet the expectations that come with being selected seventh overall in the 2009 draft, Curry signed the deal. He wanted security.
Curry spent the next five seasons outplaying it to such degree that he became the best bargain in NBA history. He was a two-time MVP, a perennial All-Star, whose 2015-16 paychecks were smaller than four of his teammates.
Curry during this time missed a total of 16 games, and never more than four in a season. He delivered five brilliant seasons, two of which yielded MVP awards, the second of which was the first unanimous voting in NBA history.
The Reputation? Curry vanquished it, flushing it out of his life.
And now it’s slipping back into his life to haunt him once more.
Curry sustained a break in his left hand on Wednesday night that resulted in surgery on Friday morning. He will miss at least three months, meaning at least 45 games. He won’t be re-evaluated until late January or early February, to count on more than 50.
This is not like the occasional knee sprains and ankle tweaks that over the past two seasons have robbed Curry of 34 regular-season games, and 12 more in the postseason. The Warriors were built to withstand those, and Curry was always back for The Finals.
These Warriors needed Curry. They have no chance of making the playoffs without him. They have little chance of winning 40 percent of their games. And he’s gone until February at the soonest.
This was the season, you may recall, during which Curry would show his value under duress. Kevin Durant was gone, no longer a factor. Klay Thompson was recovering from knee surgery and would miss most of, if not all of, the season. Curry was a popular choice as preseason MVP because any success the deconstructed Warriors might have would be attributed to him.
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Green on Friday morning said he feels worst about Curry not being able to pick up his son, Canon, or use his hands to frolic with daughters Riley and Ryan. There may be times when Curry won’t be able to hand his wife, Ayesha, a pot.
“It sucks,” Green said.
Indeed, it does. But those simple pleasures and tasks will come back, and they never were subjected to The Reputation.
No, that’s something Curry will spend the next few months trying to deny and ignore, knowing all the while there is nothing he could have done to avoid getting hurt and nothing he can do to keep the description he hates most from circling the NBA.