The old Stephen Curry is back. The rest of the NBA has been warned.
In his second preseason game for the rebuilt Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, Curry looked like a player poised to make a run at his third MVP. In only 25 minutes, Curry scored 40 points, shooting 14-for-19 from the field, making 6-of-8 three-point shots, and adding six assists and five rebounds. Timberwolves defenders looked helpless as Curry bolted around screens and hit shots that no one else in the league would have the audacity to even attempt.
Golden State ran away with a 143-123 win over Minnesota, but that felt secondary to Curry’s flamethrower performance. Watch all the highlights here:
This is the vintage Curry we all remember, the star who became the most exciting player in the sport before agreeing to sacrifice for the good of the team when Kevin Durant came aboard. With Durant off to Brooklyn this season and long-time co-star Klay Thompson out with a torn ACL, Curry is going to have the spotlight once again in Golden State. He’s also going to have to carry a massive burden for the Warriors to survive in a Western Conference that feels more brutal than ever.
If Curry can stay healthy and well rested, he’s going to have an absolutely monster year. The preseason game against the Wolves was the first warning sign.
There is no one like Curry
Calling Curry the best shooter ever has become such a common refrain that it ultimately undersells his greatness. Curry doesn’t just make threes, he creates threes out of situations where they should not exist.
Minnesota’s Robert Covington is one of the best defenders in the NBA, a 6’9, long-armed lockbox who routinely grades out as one of the most impactful stoppers in the league. He should be able to smother Curry with his length and run him off the three-point line. At least he’s able to do it with anyone else. It isn’t that easy with Curry. He only needs a crack of daylight to get off his shot, and he’s able to create it with stop-and-go crossovers that permanently place the defense on its heels.
Covington has Curry stopped as he fights over the screen, but he never thought Curry could create space the other way with such a quick move. This is an impossible situation to score three points for anyone else. For Curry, it’s par for the course.
Make it 40 PTS (6 3PM) for Steph midway through the 3rd! pic.twitter.com/pspTulYOjf— NBA (@NBA) October 11, 2019
A shot like that feels like it counts for more than three points. Curry’s baskets beat you down in a way that extend beyond their tangible scoreboard value.
The second clip in the video above just feels downright rude. Curry could have scored on Jake Layman in 50 different ways. He was toying with him the entire possession, putting just enough doubt in Layman’s head that he was going to drive past him by the time he stepped back to the three-point line. This is a predator playing with its victim before finishing the job. Curry knew the shot was cash from the moment it left his hands.
The Warriors need Curry to be aggressive. He’s going to put on a show.
Poor Layman had reason to be worried about Curry driving past him. He had been roasted in the open floor by Curry earlier in the game as he shimmied his way to a layup in the first quarter.
Steph Curry's hesi is still elite pic.twitter.com/iE5Y1paSJM— Chris Montano (@gswchris) October 11, 2019
To defend Curry is to constantly be skating on thin ice. It’s being put in a lose-lose scenario and knowing there is no other way out.
Curry plays with more confidence than anyone else in the league, a style that clashes with his choir-boy persona off the court. Curry is more of a killer than a saint, but sometimes it felt hard to realize that when he let Durant work in isolations so many times over the last two years.
Curry took a step back because he wanted to, not because he had to. With Durant out of the picture, Curry has no choice: he must cook and cook at all times. If he doesn’t get his own offense, Golden State is going to struggle to score efficiently. It’s all on him.
This is the formula for the Warriors: get Curry the ball and get out of the way. When defenses load up against him, he has the smarts and the vision and feed the ball to a teammate for an easy bucket. Even when all the attention is on him, he can still turn a broken play into three points.
Curry is going to go bananas all year because he needs to do it for the Warriors to stay afloat. After sacrificing for the team the last two years, we’re about to get MVP Curry all over again this season. This already feels like Curry’s year before the games even start counting for real.