MVP candidate Curry evolving into Warriors' trusted leader

Hanging with Mr. Curry -- Part 1

MVP candidate Curry evolving into Warriors' trusted leader
October 25, 2013, 12:00 am
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I feel more comfortable, more responsible for the team’s success and failures.
Stephen Curry

OAKLAND – Wilt never did it here, nor did Nate Thurmond or Rick Barry. Neither did Cazzie Russell or Bernard King or Chris Mullin or Tim Hardaway.

Stephen Curry, then, can be the trailblazer. The point guard enters his fifth year in position to become the first Warrior, San Francisco or Golden State, to win the NBA’s most coveted individual award: MVP.

And, yes, the thought has crossed the deepest, dreamiest recesses of Curry’s mind.

"For sure," he said, nodding.

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To have any chance of winning, Curry would need a lot of help from his Warriors teammates, particularly fellow team leaders David Lee and Andrew Bogut. Curry also would benefit if transcendent stars LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose avoid nightly superhuman feats.

Above all, Curry would need to be healthy and superb, for it is rare that the MVP award goes to a point guard, rarer still that it goes to a member of a team not typically considered among the league’s elite.

Over the past 50 seasons, only two traditional point guards – Magic Johnson definitely was not traditional – have won the award. Derrick Rose won it three seasons ago, and Steve Nash was a back-to-back winner in 2005 and 2006. Curry, to be sure, has many of the same qualities associated with Nash, whom he has studied for nearly a decade.

Neither is particularly quick or fast or strong. Neither would be considered a lock-down defender. Both are about 6-foot-3, amazing outside shooters and understated leaders.

"For guys like Steve and me, people try and take something away from us but there’s always a counter, some other avenue to take," Curry said. `"Plus, being able to shoot the ball the way he can and I can, it’s always a threat. We can use that because the defender has to honor it."

Curry is especially impressed with Nash’s resourcefulness, how he always seems to find an opening for himself or a teammate, a clear path to a smart shot.

"He makes the easy play a lot, but sometimes he likes to make the spectacular play that opens up the court," Curry said. "The way he never seems to be under stress is pretty special. He’s not the most athletic guy, kind of like myself. He’s just really crafty and shifty, knows how to change speeds and use both hands."

If Nash can win the MVP award, not once but twice, there is every reason to believe the possibility exists for Curry. For a player yet to make an All-Star Game, Steph is under an awful lot of sunlight. He set a single-season NBA record for 3-pointers in 2012-13. A recent poll of general managers resulted in him being considered the purest shooter in the league. When ESPN ranked every player in the NBA, Curry came out No. 6.

"Steph’s a heck of a basketball player, coming off a great year," coach Mark Jackson said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to – and so are we – building on what he did last year. He’s a special talent. He’s our best player.

"The sky’s the limit. To be an MVP, everything has got to fall into place. I thought he should have gotten some votes last year – and he wasn’t even an All-Star."

That’s mostly because the perception of Curry at the start of last season was of a player with a beautiful jumper but fragile ankles. He was in and out of the lineup, on a team coming off four consecutive losing seasons, a part of a franchise that had one playoff appearance in the previous 18 years.

The outlook has changed, largely because of Curry. He didn’t truly break out until the second half of the season, after the 54-point effort last February in New York, followed in April by the 47 point barrage at Los Angeles. He averaged 26 points per game after the All-Star break, more than anybody not named Carmelo, Kobe or Durant.

Curry has, in a word, evolved.

"My leadership role has developed over the last couple years," he said. "I feel more comfortable, more responsible for the team’s success and failures. I’m comfortable with the fact that this is a big year, not just with the expectations anybody else is putting on us but with what we feel we should be able to do this year. It starts with myself, David and Bogut and trickles all the way down."

So, yes, Curry is a legitimate MVP candidate. He is, deservedly so, in the discussion. It’s up to his jump shot, his ankles and the Warriors to see if he can stay in it.

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