These are the questions constantly lingering in the minds of all Warriors fans and NBA fans alike. With Golden State holding a firm two games to none lead over Portland in the Western Conference Semi’s there’s no clear, urgent need for him at the moment, especially considering they are beating Portland decidedly when playing good basketball. Game 1 was domination from start to finish. Game 2 was poor basketball for more than three quarters, then Golden State turned it on for the final quarter, overcame a 17 point deficit and won by 11. It has become evident, that even without Curry, the Warriors may be able to easily handle this Blazers team. If this is the case then why rush him back? Why risk another injury? Why risk losing all hope of winning another championship?
Yes, the Warriors can easily dispatch the likes of Houston and Portland without their MVP, but obviously, San Antonio or OKC and Cleveland would be a different story. So why not just rest him the remainder of this series and wait for the Western Conference Finals? But at what point does it stop being rest, and start becoming a period of accumulating rust? Some get the idea that Stephen Curry is a robot decommissioned for maintenance and once the repairs are complete he will simply step back onto the court, play his starter time of 35 to 40 minutes per game and rain threes at an ungodly rate annihilating all in his path. This simply is not the case. He is going to need game time to get back into rhythm with his teammates. He is going to need to face real opponent’s defense to get his shot back against real defenses. It will most likely take a couple of games, at least one, before he is back playing full minutes and his stroke back to normal.
As inhuman as he can be some things just can’t be overcome by talent. When you are conditioned like these athletes are, especially the Warriors, the longer you go inactive the more conditioning you lose. So while there is no burning desire to have him return in fear of losing the current series, some playing time in this series may be vital for Golden State’s next opponent. It may even be so instrumental to the success of the next series that you could even wonder if losing a game in this series and giving Curry an extra game to play could possibly even be a somewhat decent idea. Not that they should try to lose one, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. So let’s pretend for a second that Curry does not make it back for the next series and assume that it is Golden State vs San Antonio. So game 1 vs San Antonio would be his first game back. Does that sound like a good scenario for the Warriors?
Curry is going to need to take some shots, many of which you know he’s going to miss at a much larger rate than usual, in order to get back into the flow of things, and given that San Antonio are masters of disrupting opponent’s game flow this doesn’t seem like a favorable situation. Steph only missed two games during the Rockets series and when he returned he shot 1 of 7 from three and 2 for 9 overall. That was against a not so great Rockets defense. In this case you would be taking a Curry who has missed multiple weeks of gameplay, rather than just a couple games, and throwing him back in against a relentless, disruptive and hounding Spurs defense. The Warriors could essentially very well be sacrificing the first game or two waiting for Curry to get back into rhythm and shake the rust off. Evidence of this would be his return from injury vs the Rockets in the previous series where he was 2 of 9 from the field and 1 of 7 from three, and his return game during the season against the Nuggets where he was 3 of 11 overall and 1 of 5 from three. Not to mention these are very low tier defenses compared to the masterfully disruptive best defense in basketball that is the San Antonio Spurs. Because of that the amount of time it takes to return to form could be extended.
In fact, one could make a legitimate argument that given how well this Warriors team is playing right now combined with the fact that you need to play near perfect defense to beat San Antonio that a Curry-less Warriors might fare better than having Curry shoot 1 for 10 with 6 turnovers in his return performance. Knowing how lethal the Spurs are at home winning the first two in Oakland would be extremely crucial, even more so than a normal seven-game series in which you have home court advantage. It seems to me that the absolute best case scenario for Golden State would be, given that Curry has been all but ruled out for game 3, for Curry to make his return in game 4. Of course, he would have limited minutes as he surely lost some conditioning these weeks sitting. It may even serve them well to lose one game in Portland so that he would have an extra game to get back into the swing before facing such a defensive powerhouse in San Antonio. “Luck” has been a word that the Warriors have come to dislike, to say the least, but it would be tough to rule that out as a characteristic trait to describe the events following Steph’s knee injury.
The injuries suffered by the Clippers stars undoubtedly made this a much less stressful ordeal than initially expected. Golden State may have been able to beat that team without Curry, but it would not have been anywhere near as easy and would have surely made the situation a much more pressurized anxiety riddled scenario. If one thing is for certain Golden State’s performance has to have, at the very least, stricken a little more fear into opponents about how good the entire Warriors team really is, as everyone at home eagerly waits to hear the headline “Curry to start game….”. The only question what game he gets back in, and will it be too late?