By Connor Buestad (email@example.com)
I received the text out of the blue, around 6:15pm, on a dreary late December Tuesday night.
“Dubs vs t-wolves tonite at oracle. Can you roll?”
Normally, the answer would be no. I was all the way out in the Sunset District of San Francisco, the game started in less than an hour, the Warriors were playing pretty awful, Monta Ellis had just been traded to the Bucks for a bloke named Bogut, the list of excuses went on.
But anytime you can watch Luke Ridnour run the point for the T-Wolves alongside Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley, you have to go, right? So I did. I dragged my ass through the city, over the bridge and down to The Oracle.
By the time I got to my buddy Mike’s “lower-bowl-between-the-baskets” seats, it was already early in the second quarter. Beside some fundamentally sound pick-and-roll two-man game between Ridnour and Love, the game was sloppy at best. It had a “too many games in too few nights” NBA feel to it.
It wasn’t until just before halftime that I finally received the memo that it was “Chris Mullin Night” at the Arena. This meant that Mully would have his #17 jersey lifted to the rafters during a halftime ceremony. The ‘T’ and ‘M’ from RunTMC were going to be on hand, not to mention Tom Tolbert, Al Attles, Rick Barry, and Greg Papa. A who’s who of Warrior greats. Even Sharunas Marchulenis’ face was on my ticket stub. Suddenly, this night was shaping up to be much more interesting.
We all know what happened next. A dumpster fire broke out at center court. A textbook PR nightmare. An ugly lesson of sociology. An awful night in Warrior history.
It should have just been Mully out at center court with his wife and kids, and Mitch Richmond and Timmy Hardaway, and maybe Tom Tolbert. But god forbid if Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob decided to skip out to center court with a shit eating grin on his face and take the mic “to say a few words”.
When you are the owner of a franchise, there isn’t exactly someone above you to tell you when a bad idea is actually a terrible idea. So Joe Lacob went with his gut and took the mic, just days after trading away fan favorite, Monta Ellis.
A litany of angry boos rained down from the upper deck when Lacob tried to congratulate Mullin for being one of the best Warriors of all time. Mully attempted to take the mic back and put out the fire. It didn’t work. More boos rained down.
The lower bowl decided not to boo. Maybe because they were just stoked to be sitting in the lower bowl and were in a good mood, maybe because they were close enough to Lacob’s seats to feel some sympathy for the 5’2” owner. The upper deck, meanwhile, was unmerciful.
Rick Barry stole the mic (wearing a tan corduroy blazer, no less), and basically yelled at the fans to shut up and respect Mully’s night, but to no avail.
At that moment, the “We Believe Era” of Warrior basketball seemed like a lifetime ago. The Dubs were getting their ass-kicked by the T-Wolves, Monta was gone for good, and Mullin Night was getting drowned out by drunk/angry boo birds.
What a difference a year makes.
As it stands today, Lacob’s decision to get rid of Ellis not only seems defensible, but maybe even advisable. Curry and Ellis were allegedly not getting along, and there wasn’t enough room in the Warrior backcourt for two small guards who needed to constantly be shooting. Warrior brass decided to roll the dice on Curry’s ankle and not look back. If the 2013 playoffs are any indication, this has been the smartest decision Lacob has ever made in his life.
The phase “that player was born to _____” gets thrown around quite a bit. But in Stephen Curry’s case, it is safe to say he was indeed born to shoot. His dad, Dell, wasn’t much of a jumper, or a passer, or a defender, but if you left him open he didn’t seem to ever miss. A journeyman in the truest sense of the word, Dell played for five different NBA teams during his career. The formula went something like this: give Dell a uniform, give him a point guard that can find him open (ie. Muggsy Bogues), and he will nail jump shots for you. Rinse and repeat.
Now, what do you get when a shooter of that caliber marries a standout ACC volleyball star? Well, you get a more athletic version of Dell. And for this, Warrior fans are grateful.
Even though Steph was born with the perfect shooter’s DNA, it was always tough to believe the younger Curry would turn himself into a top tier scorer in the NBA. Talented, yes, but not LeBron, Carmelo, or Durant talented. Having the name Curry written on his back wasn’t enough to get big college basketball programs to give him a look. Instead, he had to settle on tiny Davidson College as a proving ground for his NBA worth. Three years later, after dominating the mid-major circuit, the NBA finally came calling.
Curry’s rap for his first three years in the league was “great shooter, bad ankle”. It seemed anytime Steph found himself getting in a groove and putting up big offensive numbers, his fragile ankle would give way. He’d spend a few weeks on the injured list while he tried to find a new ankle brace that would work out better. All the while Bay Area sports talk would argue whether or not Steph “would ever get right”.
The “Stephen Curry National Coming Out Party” took place where coming out parties are supposed to take place, at Madison Square Garden. On sport’s biggest stage, in a nationally televised game, Mr. Curry went unconscious for four quarters. When he awoke, the 25 year old had poured in 54 points and 11 three pointers. Even though the Knicks ended up winning the game versus the shorthanded Warriors (D Lee got suspended for fighting the Pacers the night before), the New York fans were sheepishly cheering on the three-point artist by games end. The performance was a spectacle in a very Steph Curry kind of way. It wasn’t LeBron manhandling lesser opponents; it was Steph simply mastering the art of the three point shot. Just casting up a ton of shots… and not missing.
More of the same Steph Curry heroics were put on display when the underdog Warriors took on the Denver Nuggets in round one of the playoffs. Steph single handedly turned the series into appointment television for basketball fans across the nation. The 6’3” guard whipped The Oracle faithful into a frenzy, basically shooting whenever he touched the ball, draining three after three. In game four, Curry scored 22 points, in the third quarter alone.
Now in the Western Conference semi finals, the Warriors are flying back to Oakland tied 1-1 with the experience laden San Antonio Spurs. Game 1 turned out to be one of the more gut-wrenching losses in franchise history, with the Dubs blowing a 16 point lead with four minutes left in the game. Steph Curry’s second 22 point third quarter outburst of the playoffs had gone to waste and the Charles Barkley’s of the world seriously wondered if the Warriors could overcome such an inexcusable loss.
Game 2? Well game 2 turned out to be the Klay Thompson show. The second year player out of Washington State pulled his best Steph Curry impression and made 8 of his 9 three point shots on his way to a career high 34 points. The last time the Warriors had won a game in San Antonio, Thompson was a six year old.
Now dubbed the “Splash Brothers”, the Steph-Clay combo has no shortage of confidence from their coach, Mark Jackson. Says Jackson about his youthful backcourt, “I have the greatest shooting backcourt that has ever played the game… call my bluff.”
Calling Steph Curry and Klay Thompson the greatest shooting backcourt that has ever played the game is more than a little ridiculous when you stop and think about it. But at this point, no one in Dub Nation is thinking twice about anything, not even Joe Lacob. The hopes of a Warriors trip to the Western Conference Finals rests in the hands of Steph Curry. A good pair of hands indeed.