It has finally become time to acknowledge that Stephen Curry, the Goldenest and Stateliest Warrior of them all, is (pick one or more):
- Just going through one of those shooting things that has now lasted the equivalent of a fifth of a season and must be noted as … well, something so noticeable that for one of the rare times in a pixie-kissed career he sounds, well, a bit mopey.
“I haven’t [had a worse stretch],” Curry said after Wednesday’s 99-82 loss to the modest Mavericks. “Over the course of the last 10 to 15ish [games]. Usually there are mechanics I can focus on. But now it’s dealing with [swarming] defenses and dealing with the shots I’m going to get.”
Actually, the number he was groping for is 17 games, no ish needed, in which he is shooting .367 from anywhere and .347 from behind the three-point arc. That makes him Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Malik Beasley, which is deeply and profoundly ordinary. It does not necessarily mean that Reason No. 7 on our list is an actual issue yet, but Reasons No. 1–6 look pretty well spot-on.
Curry was 5-for-24 from the field Wednesday night, resulting in the ultra-rare House of Highlights miss compilation:
At a time when the Warriors have more reasonable and trustworthy options offensively than at almost any time since he became the Warriors, Curry has suddenly felt the load of being alone more than ever. Or, more specifically, he can be guarded now by any team willing to commit two guys with sandbags. Before this current stretch, defenses did all those things and it didn’t seem to matter nearly so much. Now, it’s a talking point.
“Everyone is throwing everything at him,” head coach Steve Kerr said in a quote last night captured by Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “Their best defenders, double-teams, trying to make it as difficult as possible.”
“These defenses have ramped up a bit more than they have been,” team interpreter Draymond Green added. “As opposed to combating that with ball movement, we’ve combated that with him having the ball more. I think that’s not just a coach thing, that’s a feel thing for us players. You gotta notice that and do some things to get him off the ball.”
Maybe. Maybe not. It all sounds like inside-the-huddle coach-speak for the one player whose gift always seemed to transcend such mundane things as “plays” or “defenders.” Last year, when he was essentially trying to shoot the Warriors into the postseason by himself, his last 17 games featured a .484 shooting percentage and a .434 three-point percentage; he is 10 percentage points behind both of those marks with this current barrel-roll. This may be picking his best work to highlight his worst, but the two extremes aren’t so far apart as to make the comparison unimportant. It’s more a matter of when Kerr can stop saying with his performative chirpy optimism to get folks off an unpleasant subject, “He’s gonna break out of it pretty quickly,” because “pretty quickly” is starting to disappear in the rearview mirror.
The solution for all this could come Sunday against Cleveland when Klay Thompson returns from his two-year gap year, though the Cavs are more likely to chase Curry about and make Thompson force their respect. It might even come tonight, as Curry looks likely to be streetclothed in New Orleans against the Pelicans, ostensibly because of a quadriceps bruise he incurred against the Mavericks.
And no, Curry at 33 is by no means a shell of his former self. He’ll have to do a lot worse for a lot longer for Reason No. 7 to become a thing. But Reasons No. 1–6 look closer to whatever the truth actually is. However they divide and reassemble the explanations, Stephen Curry has now gone more than a month since the last time he put successive jaw-slackening performances together, and people are, well, noticing. As in noticing and starting to whisper about it. After all, Kyrie Irving and whatever is or isn’t ailing the Lakers at any given chat segment cannot hide everything else in the NBA every day.