Why Steph Curry's return means just as much to NBA as it does Warriors


Why Steph Curry's return means just as much to NBA as it does Warriors

The expectation is that Saturday will bring one giant lineup change for the Warriors, one massive boost for the NBA.

Stephen Curry's anticipated return after an 11-game absence with a groin injury immediately lifts the mood of the Warriors, who are coming off that rarest of nights inasmuch as they could walk out of Scotiabank Arena encouraged by their showing in a 131-128 loss at Toronto.

After an unsightly first quarter, the Warriors spent the next 41 minutes outplaying the deeper, healthier Raptors. They did so without Curry or, for that matter, Draymond Green.

So there will be a bit more air under their sneakers when Curry steps onto the court in Detroit. The Warriors without Curry are incomplete, not just because of his skills but mostly because they are built to accentuate them. He’s the hub around which they thrive.

Kevin Durant can be marvelous with or without Curry, but Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors rarely unveil the best of themselves unless Curry is on the court. The Warriors are 10-1 this season when Curry is available from start to finish, 5-7 when he is not.

Moreover, the joy factor exponentially increases when Curry is out there shooting and swishing and shimmying. The sight of this relatively ordinary specimen sending much bigger players into silent surrender is an intoxicant for the Warriors and their fans. Curry in many ways is their magic pill.

“Everything gets better,” coach Steve Kerr says. “Food tastes better, (reporters’) questions get better. We’ve been looking forward to getting him back.”

But Curry’s return is bigger than that. He’s also a tonic for the league.

In these three weeks without the two-time MVP, three players posted games of more than 50 points. Durant hung 51 on Toronto two days ago, and LeBron James scored 51 in a Lakers win at Miami 10 days before that, which was one day before Charlotte’s Kemba Walker poured in 60 in a loss to Philadelphia.

Each did his work with the cool, composed proficiency of a surgeon. Which is fine. That’s what most stars do.

Curry is different. Each time he goes off, his response is an animated glee that’s almost childlike. He is that most human of superstars, which is why the vast majority of fans ages 6 to 96, casual or committed, can find themselves charmed to full grin by his performances.

No NBA athlete has a larger contingent of fans at every arena, lining up 20- and 30-deep hoping for a glimpse, if not an autograph. This crazy popularity is why his jersey sales consistently rank No. 1, why he was voted to be the captain of the Western Conference All-Star team and why 9-year-old girls feel comfortable enough to write letters asking for his help -- and actually get it.

Many great athletes are respected and admired, their performances savored, but who besides Curry is so irresistibly enjoyed?

[RELATED: Where the Warriors sit in the NBA power rankings]

Sports history is rich with stories of athletes who pass our way, dynamic performers wrapped in magnetism unique to them. Some 21st-century standouts, like golf’s Tiger Woods, endure. Others, like MLB’s Dontrelle Willis and Tim Lincecum, do not. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the NFL’s man of the moment, is bringing a lot of this energy in his first season as a starter.

Curry, though, is that time-tested comet that keeps coming back, game after game, year after year, providing more “wow” moments, each time as thrilling if not more than the time before.

Sure, the Warriors want him back because he greatly increases their chances of winning basketball games. Curry puts a smile on the faces of Kerr and general manager Bob Myers, as well as their assistants, and teammates from Durant to rookie Jacob Evans III.

But Curry makes them dance in the NBA’s New York offices. He’ll be on the court Saturday, so commissioner Adam Silver should sleep well. The league is going back to its happy place.

Warriors' Steph Curry wants in on next iteration of 'The Match' event

Warriors' Steph Curry wants in on next iteration of 'The Match' event

Warriors star Steph Curry wants in.

Capital One’s “The Match” featuring NFL stars Tom Brady and Peyton Manning playing golf with PGA icons Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Inclement weather delayed the start, and the former Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks now are realizing just how difficult playing golf on national television can be.

Curry tweeted that he’d like to be included in the next iteration, saying that he's missing being out on the greens.

[RELATED: Watch Tom Brady get trolled by Samuel L. Jackson in 'The Match' intros]

His former teammate and course partner Andre Iguodala also is hoping Curry can bring some more skill to the event.

Who would you want to see Curry play with?

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Warriors thought Steve Kerr wasn't considering coaching job in 2014

Why Warriors thought Steve Kerr wasn't considering coaching job in 2014

After the Warriors moved on from Mark Jackson as head coach in 2014, the search narrowed on two final candidates: former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and then-TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr.

Former Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk was part of the team that interviewed both contenders and says the front office at one point wasn’t sure they’d even get a chance to sit down with Kerr during the process.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

“Steve was being courted very hard by Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks,” Schlenk said  last week on 95.7 The Game. “And at one point during the process, it felt like that’s where he was going to go. And so we didn’t think that we were going to even have an opportunity to really sit down and talk with Steve.

“And I believe it was while we were meeting with Stan down in Orlando, that Steve called Bob and said he kinda had a change of heart and he wanted to meet with us.”

Kerr’s relationship with Jackson went all the way back to their days with Michael Jordan and the Bulls, which America just got to relive through ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary series.

[RELATED: Best Warriors' 10-man lineup using their draft picks over last 30 years]

Van Gundy ultimately chose the Detroit Pistons, giving him an opportunity to oversee basketball operations as well as coach the team. Reports at the time indicated the Warriors were not willing to give Van Gundy the same universal control over basketball decision-making.

It’s safe to say Schlenk and the Warriors got the right guy, as Kerr helped bring three NBA championships to the Bay Area and the team’s success eventually led Schlenk to taking over as the Atlanta Hawks’ GM, where he has been since 2017.