Long before the Charlotte Bobcats and Golden State Warriors play Monday, Stephen Curry runs onto the court and a group of Davidson fans greets him with claps and cheers. The response is warm. But kind of corny. Curry has been in the NBA four seasons.
On the Golden State bench assistant coach Lindsey Hunter applauds Davidson-like as Curry approaches, and Curry laughs and does a crazy little dance.
Curry, who starred at Charlotte Christian and Davidson, warms up by shooting hooks beneath the basket, left hand, right hand, then moves to the free throw line and shoots with his left hand and right.
He slides to the right corner, just inside the 3-point line, and hits the first four shots he takes. He’ll hit a few, miss a few, put on game-quality moves, hit a few and miss.
He moves to the left side and suddenly morphs into Stephen Curry, the best shooter in the NBA. Time Warner Cable Arena is almost empty. The game is more than an hour away. This is nothing more than a player going through a routine.
But if you like the game, how do you not watch?
Curry hits four in a row, five and now six. If he expends effort, the human eye is not equipped to detect it. Curry shoots threes with the ease other humans shoot free throws. Ball goes up, ball goes in. Next.
Curry does another things. He comes to Charlotte third in assists per game. He can run a team. But what distinguishes him, still, is shooting.
Charlotte beats Golden State 115-111. If not for Curry’s touch, the Bobcats win by 20.
In the first half, Curry scores 11 points on 11 field goal attempts and is 0 of 4 behind the 3-point line. Then comes the third quarter
Curry hits three of four three-pointers, five of eight shots and scores 13 points,
And Golden State still trails by six.
The Bobcats and Warriors play vintage basketball, all pretty passes, virtuoso plays and lots of scoring. Doesn’t mean defense is absent. It means the grinding isolation that can ruin a good game has been abandoned. The result is free flowing and wildly entertaining basketball.
Curry shows his whole game. He goes to the basket, halts in mid-air, scoops and even puts up one of the hooks with which he warmed up.
He finds teammates. He has a game-high nine assists. He leads and the Warriors follow.
“Spectacular,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson says about Curry before the game. “He’s been playing at a whole different level. He’s playing and acting like he’s the best player on the floor night in and night out, carrying us down the stretch, making plays, choosing when to take over offensively and he knows when to facilitate.
“You see his scoring and you fall in love with his jump shot. He’s a guy that’s among the league leaders in assists also. He’s playing at a different level. He’s getting to the level of the baddest man on the planet. It’s really fun to see. It takes everyone to another level.”
The only player at Curry’s level Monday is Kemba Walker. Walker scores Charlotte’s final 15 points. At one juncture, Walker waves off teammates, preferring to work one on one against Curry. Walker scores.
So does Curry. He scores 19 in the final quarter, 32 in the second half and a season-high 43 for the evening. He hits open threes and contested threes and, with 11 seconds remaining, a three from 28 feet.
Do you know how long 28 feet is? I googled things that are 28-feet long and the best example I could find was a giant anaconda. In other words, I couldn’t find a good example.
Curry doesn’t force the shot. He swishes it.
This is breathtaking basketball, basketball that makes you smile.
The Davidson fans who applauded and cheered when Curry stepped onto the court?
They weren’t corny. They were right.