Stephen Curry controls the Golden State Warriors’ fate with the stranglehold of a modern record producer, with the control of Kanye West or Rick Rubin or a painter, pallet in hand and brush in pocket, carefully planning his next stroke.
He moves with the cautious fascination of Charles Darwin aboard the H.M.S Beagle. Curry has his loyal trench men–Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala–and they are each carving their own individual career paths and anecdotes, but this is Curry’s ship and his hand firmly guides this steadfast journey through the Western Conference.
This group of pathfinders goes as its 25-year-old leader does, whether by design or not. There is no other way to word this and no reason to burry it somewhere else: when Stephen Curry is on the bench, the Warriors suffer.
And suffer is putting it lightly; the Warriors offensive rating dips all the way to 86.5 points per 100 possessions when Curry is on the bench, a figure that is a full nine points worse than the league worst 7-29 Milwaukee Bucks. That’s not suffering by conventional terms, that’s taking a nosedive off the Encinal Tower straight into the pavement.
That Curry only actually sits 11 minutes a game is a lucky thing for Warriors fans. That he’s been relatively healthy this season (knock on wood) is even luckier. But 11 minutes is much wider gap in the slower paced playoffs, where the league’s smartest coaches will surely game plan a kamikaze-like assault for those 11 Curry-less minutes.
What’s most likely is that Curry simply plays more minutes when the minutes are most precious; last year, he received a three-minute uptick in the playoffs, though the 57-minute Game 1 against San Antonio factors in as an outlier in that set of games.
What’s also possible is that Golden State looks elsewhere for backcourt help. Kirk Hinrich is a name thrown around recently, but it stands reason to wonder if the Chicago Bulls would reluctantly deal the veteran when its won six of its last seven games and is still a likely candidate for a middle seed in the ghastly Eastern Conference.
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry is a possibility, but Toronto is likely happy with its place in the conference and would ask for much more than what Golden State is willing to part with for Lowry’s services.
There are some intriguing D-Leaguers–Manny Harris, Seth Curry, Dee Bost, Kalin Lucas–but none is probably ready to step in for a championship contender.
So while filling out the roster and bolstering up the guard depth behind Curry is appealing, it’s unlikely considering the circumstances.
Toney Douglas’ scoring numbers are down across the board and it really doesn’t appear that Kent Bazemore is ready to contribute consistently at the highest level, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that one or both will come along more persistently as the season progresses.
For now, the important thing is to learn to appreciate just how good Stephen Curry is, because he’s a once-in-a-lifetime superstar with a diverse skill set that is physically impossible to replicate with simple, stopgap players served as fillers.
Some of the shots Curry takes–and makes–are simply preposterous and when he’s on fire, he has the inhuman superpower to met Twitter into a collective stream of conscience of random upper and lower case letters and numbers.
And his importance to the Warriors is of, if not more, the same importance as LeBron James to the Miami Heat or Kevin Durant to the Oklahoma City Thunder or Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.
This season’s Curry, the one who has increased his assist rate by 10 percent, is a superstar, an irreplaceable cog on a team with legitimate championship aspirations.
That isn’t to say that he doesn’t have help, because he does. The firepower behind Iguodala, Thompson, Barnes and Lee, is potent, boisterous, ebullient and borderline unstoppable; that’s why a Golden State team with a full squad is so robust. On some nights, someone else will have the spotlight. On Friday night against the Boston Celtics, it was Iguodala’s turn.
And he answered as one would expect a former All-Star and Olympic gold medalist to do, with 22 points, seven assists, five boards and three steals. Iguodala poured in six points in the fourth quarter, but with the score knotted at 97 and time ticking off the clock, the ball was in Curry’s hand.
He dribbled off of Lee’s screen at the top of the key and Kris Humphries jumped out on him on the switch. A couple of frantic, herky-jerk crossovers left Humphries dead in his tracks. Curry rose, leaned back slightly and netted the shot with just over two seconds left.
That was his reminder. This is his journey, his masterpiece, his team.