MVP chants are not uncommon for Stephen Curry at the Chase Center (and even at the Oracle Arena).
Hearing it on the road like in Washington DC, though, hits differently.
Of course, part of it comes as the Washington Wizards continue to have pretty much nothing to show for this season at 18-26 (12th in the Eastern Conference) and in part due to the contingent of Golden State Warriors fans present. However, there is another reason for the adulation away from home: Steph Curry is on the comeback.
Curry and the Warriors medical staff may be in a better position to say whether or not the 34-year old is at 100 percent, but with the way he played against the Wizards, he pretty much looked like it. The 3-pointers came in bunches and in devastating fashion.
The four-time NBA champion wasn’t afraid of the physicality as he ran through screens and attacked the paint on the way to a game-high 41 points on six 3-pointers and a 127-118 Golden State win.
Curry missed 11 games in December and January after suffering what was reported to be a subluxation of his left shoulder (i.e., a partial dislocation of the shoulder), with the Warriors going 6-5 in his absence. The prolonged time off was a given considering how healthy limbs (non-shooting arm included) are critical to the two-time NBA MVP’s game. In the meantime, Jordan Poole continued to validate Golden State’s faith in him, while we saw the return of vintage Klay Thompson. But the Warriors are a much better team with Curry healthy and on the court (and with an arm sleeve).
Golden State’s win over Washington brings the Warriors’ record to an even 22-22, good for seventh place in the uber-competitive Western Conference. The margin for error in the West remains razor-thin as Golden State is a game and a half behind the fifth-seed Dallas Mavericks and half a game ahead of the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Portland Trail Blazers.
By the looks of it, Curry’s return could not have come at a better time. Between now and the All-Star break, there are more than a handful of games for him to shake off the rust and continue to integrate himself into this current iteration of the Warriors. How the regular season plays out after the All-Star break usually provides some indications as to how a team will fare in the postseason, and Golden State can look at how it worked out for them and the Boston Celtics last year.
While the lion’s share of offensive touches have returned to Curry, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the Warriors won’t be able to thrive. Curry draws a ton of gravity not just because of his shooting abilities, but also because of his penchant for moving without the ball. All that effort the eight-time All-NBA selection spends in running around screens and finding the open spots on the floor puts defenses on a swivel. The biggest winner? Curry of course, but the likes of Poole, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green also stand to benefit when Chef Curry is cooking.
Of course, the Warriors will take a more cautious approach given that Curry is turning 35 in March. Add the fact that Golden State played last season all the way until June and the risk of wear-and-tear is elevated, at the minimum. The Warriors have had to manage player injuries of varying degrees and won’t hesitate to be measured when the situation calls for it. Besides, the goal has always been long-term success and that is measured by championships won in June.
Stephen Curry’s NBA MVP chances are slim, but his return to the Golden State Warriors’ lineup is more valuable, given that if things fall into place, it could amount to another Larry O’Brien trophy come June. After all, that’s what matters the most to Curry.