SAN FRANCISCO -- By the time he walked into Kerlan-Jobe Institute at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on the morning of Nov. 1, Steph Curry had passed through four phases of reaction before finally reaching acceptance.
Phase One was denial, which the Warriors guard immediately entered after breaking his hand two nights earlier. Taking flight after driving to the basket against the Suns, Curry crashed into mammoth Phoenix center Aron Baynes, who landed atop Curry when both went to the floor. Curry’s left hand took the full brunt of Baynes’ 270 pounds.
There was pain, very real pain, which Curry chose not to acknowledge upon first examination.
“When I get hurt,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday as his teammates lost to the Miami Heat, “I’m always in denial.”
Phase Two in the wake of injury was humor. Curry chose laughing over wincing.
“Nobody was really telling me anything as we were going through the process to diagnose the injury,” he recalled. “And I was joking around, trying to distract myself because it was hurting.”
When Curry indicated he was going to be “alright,” the response was that his hand was broken.
When he was told it was broken, his response was, “‘OK, cool.’”
“But I didn’t know what that really meant,” Curry said upon four weeks of reflection.
By then he had progressed to Phase Three. Anxiety.
How bad was it? How long would he be out? Would he have to wear a protective device? And, if so, for how long?
“There was the potential for it to be a five-week injury, if it’s just a certain type of break,” he said. “And at first, they couldn’t really see it. And it was said out loud that it could be a five-week timeline.
“I was like, ‘OK, I can handle that.’”
That was late Wednesday night, a few hours after incurring the injury. Curry was cautiously optimistic. He figured he’d be out for a month, maybe slightly longer. He took those thoughts to bed with him early that morning.
Phase Four, despair, arrived Thursday morning, when Curry received the complete diagnosis.
Broken left hand/second metacarpal. This is going to take a while.
“The next day (Thursday) is when I found out it would be three or four months,” Curry recalled. “And that it would involve surgery.”
Roughly 24 hours later, on Friday morning, Curry underwent surgery in which pins were inserted in his left hand.
“This is the first injury I’ve had [in a long time] where I’ve actually missed a substantial time,” he said. “The most it’s been is about five or six weeks, probably.”
Curry has long been into the final phase, acceptance. The protective brace running from his hand to his forearm is a constant reminder. He will undergo surgery within the next week or two to remove those pins, after which he has been told there will be some post-operative swelling. His next evaluation is scheduled sometime around Feb. 1.
When might he be cleared to resume basketball activities? He’ll take March. Or April.
Perhaps because he has spent half his life overcoming numerous misconceptions and false assumptions -- some of which still exist -- to reach the pinnacle of professional basketball, Curry bypassed depression.
His faith is strong. His family is tight. Through perspective, he always finds brightness.
Which is not to say Curry isn’t eager to return to the court -- or that he has taken a break from the game he loves. He still goes into Chase Center for rehab sessions and cardio work. He sits on the bench during games.
“It’s just hardest on your competitive spirit,” Curry said. “When you get around basketball and get around the locker room with the guys, that’s the part I miss the most. And I love to play.
“Three months is -- and I’d only played three-and-a-half games -- just weird. It’s unfamiliar territory. I’m enjoying the downtime, because it was unheard of, in my experience, in the middle of a season. It’s just weird.”