Now that Klay Thompson is knee-deep into the finer elements of his game, he’s going to need some help for the Warriors to pull out of this tailspin and soar anywhere close the heights reached earlier this season.
The beginning of the turnaround begins the minute Draymond Green finds his shot.
The completion of it, however, requires Stephen Curry going back to class.
He has to study himself, fine-tune his shot, and then maybe he can get back to the lecturn and remind defenders around the NBA that he can be a spectacular teacher.
Curry’s 3-point shot, his specialty, is missing at a rate, and for a more extended period, than he or his teammates or Warriors fans have experienced. There have been times in recent games when he was stunningly off target; one attempt Friday night, in a 103-102 loss at Minnesota, was so wide of the rim it hit only backboard.
There it was: Stephen Curry, back-to-back MVP, king of all beyond the arc, working himself free from the defense and firing a brick.
Who is this guy?
The numbers tell an ugly story. After coming out of the All-Star break on fire, shooting 11-of-20 (55.0 percent) in the first two games, Curry has stumbled to 18-of-76 (23.7 percent) over the last seven games. The Warriors are 3-4 during that stretch.
There have been multiple air balls from deep, at least one when he had space in which to work his magic. There have been shots long and short, too much arc and too little arc, and these are from all areas behind the stripe.
Curry is the leader of this team -- with or without Kevin Durant -- and when his game suffers, everyone suffers.
Curry the clutch shot-maker, who has vanquished many opponents with his crunch-time shooting, is, according to ESPN, 0-of-5 when taking game-winning shots.
The most recent evidence was the 18-foot jumper Curry took with 5.2 seconds remaining Friday night that would have given the Warriors a lead. It missed, sending his 10-of-27 to a thudding conclusion.
“It’s a terrible feeling walking off the court when you don’t get the job done,” Curry told reporters afterward.
“But this isn’t going to define our season. We’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s an onus on trying to be ourselves every single night, play the game that we want to play, whether we win or lose.”
Maybe the burden of being great is taking a toll. Maybe back-to-back long seasons have done a number on his body. Or maybe, again, it’s a matter of getting back in the lab and staying there until he is, once again, the Stephen Curry so familiar to us.
Curry won’t play Saturday night in San Antonio. He is being placed on rest by coach Steve Kerr. It might help. It won’t hurt.
Durant’s presence, and his excellence, obscured Curry’s dip. It’s a not a precipitous fall, but it is perceptible. And if it does not stop, the Warriors will continue to stagger and stumble, winning some games but also losing games they once won in a walk.
The Warriors are a potentially great team with Durant and Curry. They’re a very good team with Curry. With the man wearing Curry’s jersey these days, they are profoundly ordinary.
“We’ve got to get back to us,” Curry said. “I know everybody in that locker room, we’re not panicking at all.”
For the Warriors to get back to being “us,” Curry has to get back to being Steph. Until that happens, there will be many more games that leave just about everyone wondering when he might be back.