It’s never in good form to draw conclusions off a small sample size, and especially from the start of the season. Yet, not a few quarter chose to write the Warriors’ eulogy following blowout setbacks in the first two outings of their 2020-21 campaign. To be fair, the unexpected loss of Klay Thompson due to a freak injury hurt their chances. And, with cornerstone Stephen Curry emerging from a long layoff, even more uncertainty beyond that engendered by the pandemic threatened to hamper their competitiveness.
Still, there should be no counting out the Warriors, whose dynastic run from the middle of the last decade has at least earned it the benefit of the doubt. True, one-man offensive juggernaut Kevin Durant is gone. And, true, defensive anchor Draymond Green showed signs of regression last season. On the other hand, Curry is, well, Curry, and if there’s anything the two-time — and lone unanimous — National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player brings, it’s the capacity to lift the games of those around him. Indeed, his mere presence makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. It comes with the territory of the greatest shooter, and one of the best point guards, in league history.
No doubt, the less-than-imposing figure Curry cuts gives the wrong impression. At 6’3” and a shade under 190 pounds, he doesn’t fit the mold of the athletic marvel à la LeBron James. On the flipside, pro hoops annals have never seen anyone like him. There’s a reason he’s earning a whopping $40 million: He can launch shots from any angle anywhere on the court with both uncanny swiftness and deadly accuracy, and he compels multiple coverages that invariably lead to teammates getting open looks. Considering his already-stellar accomplishments, there isn’t any need for him to remind all and sundry of his capacity to take over matches at any given instant.
But remind the NBA he did the other day in leading the Warriors to an emphatic triumph over the highly rated Blazers. And as he put the finishing touches on a ridiculous 62-point effort, a career high that not coincidentally came with Green’s return to action, social media denizens exploded in recognition — as if he hadn’t already repeatedly been there and done that. The irony is that he figures to be taken for granted less were he more physically imposing and emotionally demanding as a player.
In any case, the Warriors are only too glad to see Curry back to his dominant self in a manner only he can display. They certainly need him to be if they’re going to stay relevant in the highly competitive Western Conference. The problem, of course, is his relative fragility; they don’t want to wear him out by riding him hard too early in the season. Then again, they have no choice; even with Green once again orchestrating on both ends of the floor, new acquisition Kelly Oubre Jr. likely to progress to the mean, and rookie James Wiseman improving by the day, they’ll be going only so far as he will take them.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.