Curry crumpled over that ankle again, this time in a loss to the Spurs. The Warriors had been looking well, Monta and Steph were sharing an awesome, ephemeral moment of complimentary play. But an ankle doesn’t care if usage rates coalesce into beautiful functionality like two coiling DNA strands. If an ankle wants to buckle, you’re going down.
Sportscaster Larry Beil gave the proper immediate context for last night’s Curry tumble: “This is now officially a crisis!” Simply true. In so far as a lotto team can have a crisis, this one may be more fraught than the volcano erupting in Sacramento.
The Warriors always favored Stephen Curry over Monta Ellis, at least in the Lacob era. When it came time to trade one for Chris Paul, Monta was offered and Steph was swiftly swept under those mother hen feathers. When Monta Ellis got ensnared in a sexual harassment suit, GSW might as well have hung an “Exit” sign above his locker.
It was over, the Warriors were Curry’s team. Monta Ellis would not survive this trade deadline like he had all the others. It was only a matter of time…until the cement reality from a few weeks ago completely melted. Measures designed to fix Curry’s chronic ankle injury have bounced off those headstrong tendons. If surgery can’t fix it, if Nike can’t fix it, if rest can’t tame it…then what is it? It would be death to parity if any player were as unstoppable as Curry’s ankle malady. Stephen is on his third sprain of the year, and the opener was last week.
There is also the matter of how Curry played in those first few games. Perhaps the ankle is to blame, but his decision-making advertised last year’s passing lapses. Specifically, Curry kept getting trapped off screen and rolls, sometimes holding the ball until hacking it up. Often Curry would keep possession, but he’d force David Lee to arrive as a rescuer. The sequence meant that Lee received a pass well above the three point line with the shot clock shrieking. These were ugly, doubt-stoking plays.
In contrast, Monta Ellis has looked oddly fantastic as a distributor. While Curry relies on pocket passes in pick and roll situations, Monta gets his assists in fast forward. He’s been getting a lot of them lately, to the tune of an 8.2 average over these opening games. Ellis flies through defenses like an untied balloon, calmly dumping the ball to an open man at the very last millisecond. Monta, the mid-air point guard, dropping vertical passes like so many Zeus lightening bolts. This can’t be sustainable. It feels so right.
Weeks ago, the Warriors wouldn’t trade Stephen Curry for one year of Chris Paul. Today, Curry’s career appears profoundly threatened. Today, Monta appears the keeper. And the Warriors keep soldiering forward with the mismatched pair.