NBA PM: Trade Changing Steph Curry’s Game
Steph Curry and Monta Ellis were never exactly a match made in heaven when it came to the NBA’s elite backcourt duos. They gave the Golden State Warriors plenty of offense, but they lacked the size to compete with the best backcourt combinations in the league. They scored a lot of points, but they gave up just as many or more on most nights.
Earlier this year the Warriors’ ownership and front office changes ultimately brought about the inevitable, and the backcourt pairing of Ellis and Curry came to an end when Ellis was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Andrew Bogut. That move will likely make the Warriors the defensive team they have long wanted to be once Bogut gets healthy, but it also changed the game for Curry, who is now much more of a true floor leader for the team.
“Just puts the ball in my hands a little more to make plays,” Curry tells HOOPSWORLD. “Coach [Mark Jackson] has put a lot of confidence in me to go out there and do that, so that’s my goal is to make the right decisions, be aggressive and attack and play alongside Klay [Thompson] and Harrison [Barnes]. The backcourt that we have, we mesh well together, especially with Jarrett [Jack] coming off the bench, so it’s been a different look, but we are getting used to each other and we are playing well.”
The playmaker role suits Curry, who has already been a big help to his rookie wingman.
“Steph has been great,” says Barnes. “He attracts so much attention scoring for us, guys will have to lock in on him and that allows for myself and other guys to get easier shots.”
That doesn’t mean that Curry isn’t looking to score, and sixth-man Carl Landry emphasizes that Curry’s scoring is just as important as his passing when it comes to keep the opposing defense guessing.
“Steph and the rest of the guys, they can shoot the ball,” says Landry. “I like to get down on the block and bang a little bit on the offensive end, but Steph, Klay (Thompson), Richard Jefferson, we’ve got so many weapons on the perimeter and it just makes my job a lot easier. Steph’s a guard, he sees the floor, he’s a floor general, he’s literally an extension of Coach Jackson out there on the floor. He definitely makes everybody’s job a lot easier.”
It hasn’t been easy for Curry, who had yet another round of ankle surgery and is struggling to shoot the ball this season. Traditionally hovering around 50 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three, Curry is shooting just 42 percent and 31 percent, respectively, this season.
“It’s another year, summer of surgery, rehab and therapy and all that, so I wasn’t on the court much over the summer,” says Curry of his early struggles shooting the ball. “Just getting your legs back to what you are used to during the season, it takes a minute. I shoot the ball, that is what I do, and hopefully things will start to average out a little bit.”
Despite their early struggles, both on the court and with injuries, the Warriors are two games over .500 and currently among the Western Conference’s top eight teams.
“I think we are playing alright, we had a 5-5 start, we want to be a little better than that, obviously, but we are missing Bogut, we had a terrible injury with Brandon Rush to start our year out,” says Curry. “With all things considered we are playing well, and we have put ourselves in position to build on the first ten games and hopefully we can do that.”
The playoffs have been a long time coming for Warriors fans, but by all indications this could be the year they make their return. It helps that they are now a better defensive team, both in the backcourt and in the middle, where Andrew Bogut is expected to be the piece that finally completes their rebuilding puzzle. Driving the success will be Steph Curry, now the team’s true full-time floor leader.
Ricky Rubio Ahead of Schedule?
For the first week or so of the 2012-13 NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves did the improbable, keeping teams at bay and running out to a 5-2 start despite debilitating injuries that seemed to get worse with each passing game. Since then, however, even with Kevin Love rejoining the team earlier than expected, the Timberwolves have lost five games in a row. They are in need of some good news, and today Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offers up just that.
The much-anticipated return of Ricky Rubio was believed to be weeks away, but according to Zgoda’s report, Rubio could be mere days away from stepping back into Rick Adelman’s lineup. He would certainly be a welcome sight.
“When he was healthy last year, he was very good keeping the people in front of him,” Adelman said in the report. “He was able to control the guard he was guarding and not let him get around him. He was in the top five in steals. He was always in the right spot defensively as a team defender, too. He’ll help us. He’s give us a little more size there. His instincts will help us a lot.”
There is no actual timetable set for Rubio’s return, but given that he is going through aggressive workouts as part of rehab effort, it looks like the original timeframe of some time after Christmas was not nearly optimistic enough. Don’t be surprised if Rubio is back in action long before Christmas, possibly as early as the first week of December.
Houston’s Rio Grand Valley Vipers
If you’re not paying attention to the NBA Developmental League, you had better at least make sure you know which team your favorite NBA squad is using and check in once a week. More and more, the D-League is becoming what it was originally conceived to be: a farm system for the NBA.
The Houston Rockets are among the teams who spend a great deal of time studying their D-League affiliates, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and they use it to make sure their up-and-coming players are being adequately prepared for the big stage when the time comes. When rookie Donatas Motiejunas was struck with an infection and forced to miss the start of the NBA season, he was sent to Rio Grande to get ready to join the nightly rotation in Houston. He appeared in two games and lead the team in scoring, averaging 24 points per contest while shooting 53 percent from the field before being called up on Monday.
Likewise, point guard Scott Machado has been spending some time with the Vipers, and he averaged 16 points and eight assists per game before also being called up on Monday. He struggled with turnovers, amassing 10 in his two games, and shot just 37 percent from the field, but he also showed the court vision that has the Rockets so optimistic about his future.
“We consider [the D-League] one of our key assets,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said to HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis recently. “We have a great partnership. I think over time people are going to see minor league basketball like Triple A baseball. It’s not much different than Major League Baseball where most players are one step away from the pros. The first three or four guys on every D-League bench are really not different from guys 11-15 on NBA benches. The quality of basketball is super high, way higher than college basketball. Pretty much every D-League team would have a chance to challenge for a NCAA title. These are really great teams playing every night and I think over time people are going to see how high the quality is.”
Rockets fans are anxious to see Motiejunas, in particular, as he is expected to be someone who could challenge for a starting spot in the rotation. There’s a very real chance that they will get their wish tomorrow night, when the Toronto Raptors and former Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry pay a call on Toyota Center.
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