Programming note: Coverage of Warriors-Clippers Game 3 starts Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area with Warriors Pregame Live. Bookmark this page for comprehensive coverage of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series.
OAKLAND – There are five requirements to certify an active NBA superstar, and Stephen Curry has met four.
He is exceedingly popular with the international public, is by consensus the best player on a back-to-back playoff team, ranks among the league leaders in the statistical categories relevant to his position and has become, by name and/or face, familiar to the casual fan.
But the fifth and final requirement remains elusive, which exasperates Warriors coach Mark Jackson and has put a crack in Curry's usually placid veneer.
He is not getting superstar treatment from NBA referees.
Through the first two games of the Warriors-Clippers playoff series, Curry has taken countless blows from an assortment of opposing players. He has been knocked down on multiple occasions on which there was audible body contact before he thudded to the floor.
Yet the whistles continue to be slow to blow. He has been sent to the line three times in 76 minutes. Even in a series under scrutiny for the friction between the teams, NBA officials are wordlessly informing Curry that he is not yet a superstar.
Jackson's response during the Warriors loss in Game 2 was to lobby each of the three officials during different timeout periods.
Curry's response thus far has been to keep playing, to go harder.
With the Warriors trailing by more than 25 in the third quarter of their Game 2, he was at his most rapacious, attacking the rim repeatedly and with abandon, inviting contact. Curry was pushed and hacked and bouncing off the floor at least four times while taking 11 shots in 12 minutes.
When the first nine shots resulted in two calls, he'd had enough. After driving in for a layup and missing while being hit, Curry's reaction to the no-call was to glare at the ref, rip out his mouthpiece, fling it toward the Clippers bench and blister the crew.
"I was obviously frustrated with what the score was," Curry said Wednesday of the demonstration that resulted in a technical foul. "I got hit a couple times and didn't get a call. I was just letting them know how I felt at the time."
When I asked Curry if he was sure it was only "a couple times," he grinned and reminded me that he's not trying to get fined.
Curry isn't comfortable with the subject because he does not want to invite a letter of reprimand and the check he'd have to write. Jackson can only drop thinly veiled hints because, as the coach likes to say, he has children and college tuitions.
There is no sign of resignation, though. Jackson anticipates the time will come when Curry becomes a member of the league's recognized elite. Once in that group, even the slightest contact can mean a trip to the line.
Meanwhile, Curry and his slender body have to withstand the physical punishment.
"We're not going to quit," he said. "We're not going to just lay down and allow a team to do what they want against us. We're going to be physical, come back and light that competitive fire that we need for Game 3 that we're going to need to get it done and protect our home court."
Four out of five is pretty good in most athletic endeavors. It has not been enough to help Curry and the Warriors in this series.
The officials are going to make Curry earn his status, bruise and bleed his way into the fraternity that includes Kevin Durant and James Harden and Dwyane Wade and Clippers guard Chris Paul. The safe bet is that Curry eventually will.