Last night, we saw the best of Stephen Curry (39 points, 14-20) amid another Warriors loss. Which is fitting: Curry is raising his game as the Warriors capsize into a sewer. Perhaps that’s why Steph’s getting so little credit. If it seems like I’m debating a strawman, just know the strawman is cobbled from my Twitter feed. The blue bird is flooded with Curry complaints, every Dubs game. And the point here isn’t to emotionally defend Curry from that silent noise, but instead to parse why his meaningful improvement is getting ignored, or worse, derided.

Better than projected

What fans aren’t seeing: Easier scoring

Curry is getting to the cup more often, and he’s getting fouled. Last year, Steph tallied 2.6 attempts at the rim per contest. This year, he’s at 3.2. When rimward, he’s gone from converting  57.6% of his shots to 65.5%, and far fewer–nearly 20% fewer–of those shots are assisted. Curry’s gotten more clever with his drives, and that’s showing up in the free throw numbers–4.2 FTA per game to 2.5 FTA. His herky-jerk dribble that becomes a loping, sideways-hook-layup is finally paying off at close range. Who knew that could work?

It’s hard to sell fans on Stephen Curry acting more like Corey Maggette, but this is a good phenomenon. The capacity to whistle-prompt will improve his efficiency going forward. I worried about Steph’s ability to create anything other than a jumpshot. He’s doing that, plus the jumpshots are going in. And by “going in,” I mean, “Ray Allen and Steve Nash had a baby, who still actually looks like a baby.”

What fans are seeing: Bad body language in response to bad mistakes

When Curry acts like Cousins, it undermines conceptions of his pedigree–and that’s part of the problem. When benched or frustrated, Stephen has a tendency to outwardly pout. I’m reminded of the Suns game when Smart gave him a fourth quarter hook. My periphery recognized a teen nun on the bench, and when I swiveled, it was actually Steph–with a towel draped over his sagging head. His shoulders were slumped, his face was contorted. Fans hate this, especially when some associate Steph with wealthy entitlement.

I am not sure why, but we often put athletes on a stretcher of conflicting demands. We want basketball players to despise failure, but beam outward positivity in response to failure. What I am sure of: Curry’s response to individual mistakes is tangibly unpleasant. Perhaps it’s golfing instincts, but he often evokes an old man reacting to a botched putt. There’s the angry air punch, the “Why me??” shrug, the rolled eyes. Most observers prefer Monta’s cold, focused, “I will tear down the gates of hell” demeanor.

And when do we most often see Curry at his worst? In response to Curry at his worst. When Steph screws up, he compounds the problem with histrionics. This makes the mistake more memorable, attaches a story to a turnover, inflates the impact on our consciousness. It’s to the point where announcer Bob Fitzgerald is suggesting that Stephen Curry “stop throwing one-hand passes.” Though Steph has a tendency to toss the occasional awful, one-hand turnover, telling a guard to cease passing one-handed is quite frankly, insane. Bob Cousy happened a long time ago.

These memorable turnovers highlight another issue that fans seem to have with No. 30: He hasn’t markedly improved as a facilitator. Curry’s assist-to-turnover ratio is essentially what it was last year. My argument in Curry’s defense would be that he’s accruing more turnovers with increased driving, and that his passing game really shined in Monta’s absence last year (8.3 assists per game, sans Ellis). More to the point, Curry isn’t the team’s primary ballhandler–he trails Ellis in usage rate again. If you want Stephen to produce like a pointguard, he should handle the rock like a pointguard. For now, those whining about Curry are most justified when whining about Curry’s whining.

And to everyone who complains about defense? That’s a team-wide problem, worthy of its own post.

Twitter: @SherwoodStrauss/Email: [email protected]

3 Responses

  1. Nellie

    Until the Warriors get a better defensive frontline, I can’t see how Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry can survive. Curry is too slow to guard the top PGs in the league and Ellis is too small to guard the bigger guards in the league.

    The reason why Curry’s minutes are down is because he’s either in foul trouble and/or he can’t defend the other team’s PG. Ellis is the better defensive player, so he’s always going to be on the court. Plus, Curry’s defensive intensity isn’t there on a consistent basis.

    Lastly, both Curry and Ellis show flashes of making others around them better, but the lack of consistency and focus on both ends of the floor make their individual games a whole lot better than their team game.

  2. bgalella

    Stephen Curry seems like the one player that hasn’t excelled since spending time with Team USA this summer.

    He’s shown flashes of being a great player, just not the consistency needed to become a true star.

    Golden State needs to deal either Curry or Monta Ellis, both a tremendous players, just not togther, their games don’t seem to mesh.

  3. WarriorsGo

    I completely agree. Ellis handles the ball just as much if not more then Curry and yet everyone expects his assists to be higher when he doesnt have the ball in his hands as much as CP3 and Deron Williams.