I know there’s a Warriors-Clippers game to recap tonight, but I feel my attentions are urgently needed in another cause.
Joe Lacob has just done another round of media interviews, which is our clue that some nasty business is at hand. His first round of interviews prepared us nicely for the firing of Don Nelson, the retention of Robert Rowell, and the glorious signings of Keith Smart, Lou Amundson and Jeremy Lin. What was the intention of this latest round of interviews?
As far as I can discern, this was his message: First: “I am the GM of the Golden State Warriors.” I and Larry Riley already knew this, but some others may have needed convincing. It should be crystal clear now. Check the tape.
Second: “I am on the job 24/7 and I am trying like hell to swing a big trade before the trading deadline. I want to put my stamp on the Golden State Warriors. And by that, I mean something even bigger than Lou Amundson and Jeremy Lin.”
Third: “Keith Smart has done some crazy-ass things.” I interpret this to mean playing Vladimir Radmanovich at power forward. “But he’s getting better.” I interpret this to mean that this is Smart’s last year, unless the Warriors make the playoffs and the fans start chanting his name.
Fourth: “Monta Ellis is now my favorite player and I’m thinking about trading Stephen Curry. (But only if the right player comes along!)”
It is this last message, which of course has been seized upon by the national media — as Lacob must have known it would be — that has me concerned. And by concerned, I mean borderline deranged. I can deal with the numerous minor abominations of Lacob’s management, but trading Stephen Curry? I just ordered a case of Lagavulin, pre-emptively.
Trading Stephen Curry would be a disaster completely beyond imagining for me. Someone needs to talk some sense into Joe Lacob about Stephen Curry, and the Ellis-Curry backcourt. Fast!
I’m not going to wait to see what happens. If this lonely, unaffiliated Warriors blog can do anything to prevent Curry from being traded, it will do so. I’m pressing the panic button, and rolling out my big guns. And so, here are my
NINE REASONS WHY STEPHEN CURRY SHOULD NOT BE TRADED
9) Is the Ellis-Curry backcourt really a defensive liability? Was that a collective snort I heard? Well, just follow along with me for a second. What do you think is the Warriors’ biggest need at this time? I mean, what is it that they desperately need? The consensus is that they need a dominant center and a back-up point-guard. I disagree.
What the Warriors desperately need right now is a big defensive shooting guard. And by defensive, I do not mean the kind of one-way players that Joe Lacob has stuffed the Warriors bench with, like Lou Amundson and Jeremy Lin. I mean the kind of big defensive two-guards that Don Nelson was legendary for finding, like Mario Elie, and Raja Bell, and Kelenna Azubuike, and Stephen Jackson (before Nellie demonstrated to the league that he was a star). Guys who could spread the floor, and drain the three, as well as rip the heart out of the opposing team’s best scorer.
With a player like this, the Warriors wouldn’t even need a back-up point guard. The Warriors could sub him for either Ellis or Curry, and whichever 6-3″ player was left on the floor would take over the point. Both Ellis and Curry have proven themselves to be wonderful point guards, albeit with completely different styles. Why not let them back each other up instead of relying on the likes of Acie Law?
Now, let’s say that this big shooting guard was good enough that Keith Smart could get Ellis’ and Curry’s minutes down to 38 a game. That means that for 20 minutes per game the Warriors would have a decent to good defensive backcourt. Get it?
This isn’t rocket science. Except perhaps to our venture capitalist cum GM. This is Don Nelson 101. You get the best players. And then you protect them.
8 ) Even if it is a liability, so what? Walt Frazier — Earl Monroe, Isaiah Thomas — Joe Dumars, Steve Nash — Nick van Exel. History has shown that when possessed of the right level of talent, protected with the requisite defensive pieces, and coached in the right style, undersized backcourts can win NBA championships.
There is no doubt that Curry and Ellis have the right level of talent. They may be the most talented backcourt in the league today, if not one of the most talented in league history.
What remains is to surround them with the right pieces. The aforementioned big shooting guard is a must. It is also obvious that the Warriors need a big shot-blocker in the middle, and it is increasingly doubtful that that is going to be Andris Biedrins.
And I like Dorell Wright, but it wouldn’t hurt if he grew a big pair of brass-plated balls.
As for the coaching… the clock is ticking. On everyone, it appears.
7) Carmelo Anthony: Melo is of course “the prize” of this season’s trading deadline, and the player for whom Joe Lacob is openly contemplating trading Stephen Curry. Now I know with 100% certainty that Melo will never come here. Melo has big market, multi-media, King of the City aspirations. And that city ain’t Oaktown. But I’m going to address the possibility of a Curry for Melo trade anyway, because the thought that Lacob is even contemplating this trade, let alone spouting off in the media about it, has my blood boiling.
Carmelo Anthony is a great scorer. That’s all he is. He is not a great defender, and he is not at all great at making the players around him better. (That’s what Chauncey Billups is for!) He is a very selfish player, and a terrible passer. His 3 assists per game is as low as it gets for “superstar” players who demand double and triple teams. It’s a disgrace, as is his 1:1 assist to turnover ratio. Carmelo Anthony is a blackhole. The ball goes in and never comes back out.
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are examples of similarly selfish glory-hogs, who became NBA champions. (I love what Kevin McHale had to say about the difference between Jordan and Larry Bird: “The difference is that if Larry were on a 2 on zero fast break, and his teammate were 10 feet in front of him, Larry would pass him the ball.”) But there is a huge and quantifiable difference between Jordan and Kobe, and Carmelo Anthony:
As selfish as Michael Jordan was and Kobe Bryant is, in the end, they could never be beaten by a double team. First, because they could frequently outquick a triple team, which I don’t believe Carmelo can. Second, because when forced to, they could pass. Jordan averaged 5.3 assists, and a 2:1 assist/TO ratio. Kobe averages 5 assists, and 3:2.
But also, and very importantly, it’s because they could initiate their offense from the top of the key, where it is IMPOSSIBLE to double team effectively. Carmelo cannot shoot threes, is not possessed of great speed, and cannot pass. He thus cannot initiate his offense from the top of the key. In point of fact, he almost always sets up camp on the right mid-post. It is far easier and more efficient for defending teams to send help there.
In other words: Carmelo Anthony is not a playoff closer. He is a dominant force, no doubt. He ran over Trevor Ariza and Kobe Bryant individually, and put up great individual numbers against the Lakers in the playoffs. (Hello, Ron Artest!) But in the end, he could not, and cannot, beat a double or triple team at the end of playoff games.
Now ask yourself: Where do Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry initiate their crunch time offense?
Can either Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry be double-teamed?
The Golden State Warriors already have their closers. Melo is not what they need.
6) Stephen Curry is a closer: I am not going to belabor this point. Anyone who doesn’t know already that Curry is a closer must not have watched his particular brand of March Madness, nor his rookie season in the NBA. Curry has already hit more clutch shots than most players hit in a lifetime.
He gets his shots differently than conventional superstars. He gets them with cleverness, with ambidexterity, and with deadly shooting accuracy.
But make no mistake about it, if the Warriors went to him at the end of games instead of Ellis, Curry would get and hit his shot as often as Ellis. If not more.
He’s already proven that.
5) Can Curry and Ellis play well together? This question, which was prevalent at the beginning of last year when Ellis was freezing Curry out, is popular again. Chiefly because Curry has started the season very slowly due to injury and fatigue, but also because Keith Smart is holding Curry down.
In my mind, Don Nelson proved at the end of last year that Curry and Ellis can not only play beautifully together, but dominate. As they did in that 7-5 run to end the season, playing with D-leaguers.
4) Keith Smart is KILLING Stephen Curry. A large part of Curry’s struggles this year have to do with Keith Smart trying to hold his offense down, in favor of moving the ball and becoming a spot-up shooter. In other words, trying to pound the fabulous round Stephen Curry into a square Luke Ridnour-Steve Blake hole. I could go on and on about this, but let me just illustrate with one easy example: the walk-up, early offense three.
We all know that Stephen Curry excels at this shot. We saw him drain them countless times in his rookie season under Don Nelson. There is little doubt in my mind that he hits them at a rate of close to 50%. (His 43% average includes the hotly contested, end of the clock threes that bring shooters’ averages down.)
Keith Smart will not let Curry shoot this shot. Absolutely forbids it. I have seen him chew Curry out for it, and I’ve seen him yank him for it. Despite the fact that it is nearly indefensible. Despite the fact that it completely demoralizes teams that have dominant half-court defenses. Despite the fact that it is highly efficient.
Do you doubt its efficiency? Let’s set up a little hypothetical. Let’s say that Stephen Curry converts wide-open walk-up threes at an uncontroversial 45%. Now let’s hypothesize that every time Curry misses his shot, the other team scores — in the words of the immortal Bob Fitzgerald — “a layup or dunk.” Every single times he misses, a layup or dunk.
Which team comes out ahead in this hypothetical? (I know this is an absolutely absurd hypothetical, it’s quite possible to defend after a missed three, especially if your centers don’t make it over half-court. But on the other hand, it’s a hypothetical that accurately incorporates Keith Smart’s current paranoia.) So which team wins?
While we’re waiting for Kirk Lacob to load this problem into his computer, let’s throw out another thought:
Does the very real threat of the walk-up three — the threat that Curry deployed so magnificently in his rookie season, and that Steve Nash has deployed so magnificently in every game of the last 10 seasons — does that open up the floor for your offense? Does it force the defender to guard you more tightly, and thus set up the drive and dish, and the pick and roll?
Try sticking that in your computer.
3) Stephen Curry is a point guard. Due to his current struggles in Keith Smart’s system, we are again starting to hear from Bay Area media ignorametzes that Stephen Curry is not a “true” point guard. I am frankly incredulous at this opinion. Did these pundits happen to miss what Curry did at the point last season under Don Nelson?
There are some coaches in the league by the name of Karl and Popovich and D’Antoni, at the very least, who would KILL to be able to install this untrue point-guard at the point.
Bobby Knight thinks Stephen Curry is “as good a passer as has ever played college basketball.” Is it possible that that man could have that opinion about a player who cannot play point guard?
Don Nelson said, the minute after he drafted Curry, that Curry was the second best player he’s ever had, after Steve Nash. Better than Hardaway, better than Moncrief, better than Baron Davis? A typical piece of ludicrous Nellie hyperbole!
Right up until Nellie and Stephen Curry went out and proved it, in Curry’s rookie season.
Not a point guard? You must be kidding me. At the end of his rookie season, Curry looked not merely like a point guard, but like a living, breathing reincarnation of the fourth-year Steve Nash.
Just because a player is a phenomenal scorer does not mean he is not a point guard. Would you take Lebron James as your point guard? Derrick Rose?
2) Stephen Curry is a leader: This is another point I’m not going to belabor. Monta Ellis is growing into a leader, no doubt. But Stephen Curry is a natural born leader, and will always be a better leader than Ellis because he looks to get his teammates the ball first. (This is in no way meant to slight Ellis, whom I love as a player.)
I don’t have to belabor this point, because it’s already been proven, in the mind of Curry’s Hall of Fame head coach, in the minds of his teammates, and on the court. In his rookie season, guiding D-leaguers to victory.
Leadership like Curry’s doesn’t grow on trees. I think it might be even more difficult to find than the dominant low-post player that Joe Lacob so openly covets.
1) The Curse: That’s what’s coming, Joe Lacob, if you trade Stephen Curry for Carmelo Anthony, or some giant stiff in the middle. The Curse of Stephen Curry.
It will be very similar to The Curse of Steve Nash that currently hangs over Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks.
Mark Cuban, internet boom lottery winner cum GM of the Dallas Mavericks, currently holds the title of Undisputed Worst GM in NBA History. He is the only GM who ever let a future 2-time League MVP walk out the door over money, and take Don Nelson and multiple NBA championships with him. Mark Cuban will carry that distinction to his grave.
Unless you, Joe Lacob, lift that burdensome mantle from his shoulders. We all know that Stephen Curry, unlike Monta Ellis, does not rely on athleticism for his greatness. It is easy to see him playing until the ripe old age of 38 — just like the player he most resembles, Steve Nash. And when Curry does step off the hardwood, I predict he is going to step right into the NBA Hall of Fame as one of the all-time scorers and all-time assist leaders in NBA history. And it is highly likely that he will have one or more NBA title runs, if not one or more NBA titles, in his back pocket as well.
If you are the man who traded that away, Joe Lacob… well, there is no other way to put it. You will be cursed. Like Mark Cuban, you will carry The Curse of Stephen Curry with you throughout the long, long years of Curry’s career, and then for the rest of your life.
Don’t do it, Joe Lacob. Don’t blight the Warriors franchise in the bloom of its greatest era. Don’t doom your legacy in its infancy.
Don’t provoke the vengeful gods of basketball.
Strive to recognize the greatness that is before you, even while it is struggling to free itself. And if somehow you are unable to do that, then listen to your assistant GM, Larry Riley.