Warriors’ Stephen Curry could be difference in NBA final

There has been little said about  Stephen Curry in the buildup to the NBA final, but the Warriors guard will surely force himself into the conversation.
There has been little said about Stephen Curry in the buildup to the NBA final, but the Warriors guard will surely force himself into the conversation.  (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)  

Such are the storylines in the NBA final that begins Thursday night in the crazy loud Oracle Arena that one of the best players of his generation is in danger of falling into an “oh, yeah, him too” crevice in the lead-up to the series.

There is Cleveland’s LeBron James, arguably operating at a level that even he has never achieved in a career that will end in the hall of fame, and there’s Golden State’s Kevin Durant, cast in some corners as the villain of the times, and there is chatter on which of them might emerge as the most valuable player in the final. There’s Warriors coach Steve Kerr and the after-effects of back surgery that have led to absence. There’s the Warriors’ Draymond Green and the “what’s he going to do or say next” pool. And there are the seemingly comfortable and at-peace Cavaliers: forward Kevin Love, guard Kyrie Irving and coach Tyronn Lue.

Oh, and there’s Golden State’s Stephen Curry.

Remember him?

The two-time NBA most valuable player may not have been overlooked in the idle days going into the championship series but he’s certainly not driving the conversation as perhaps he should be.

The 29-year-old is having the best post-season of his life, averaging 28.6 points on 50.2 per cent shooting from the field and 43.1 per cent from three-point range — all career bests. He is dishing out 5.6 assists per game, playing healthy and free and he seems ready to get himself in the best-player-in-the-series discussion.

“It’s just been such a better progression for Steph this post-season,” Kerr, the ailing Golden State coach, told reporters Monday. “Last year, right from Game 1 against Houston (in the first round of playoffs), he was injured and fighting an uphill battle.

“I thought he was amazing given the circumstances of his injury, but to me he looks fresher, faster, stronger than he did a year ago.”

And that may be the tipping point in a series that pits far and away the hottest teams in the league against each other in a third straight NBA final.

James and Durant could very well cancel each other out, you’d think Klay Thompson and reen might be able to equal or surpass the output of Kyrie and Love, leaving Curry to be, well, a two-time MVP with unlimited shooting range.

The narrative running through much of the regular season was that, somehow, Curry had taken a step back, that he’d been having difficulties getting used to playing alongside Durant, that things were somehow “harder” for him.

It’s nonsense, of course. He was outstanding, the Warriors were outstanding, he and Durant combined to frighten opponents almost nightly. Golden State cruised to its third straight appearance in the final.

Curry is not the type to let any criticism fester and he’s certainly not the type to lash out in any public manner. He plays, his team wins, he gets enough fame and more than enough money; all seems pretty right in his world.

But now, a chance at a second title in three years — a chance to put away memories of a terribly botched pass that basically set up the final Cavaliers run a year ago — is welcomed.

“Just having an opportunity to rise to the occasion knowing this is when things matter most,” Curry told ESPN this week. “But I’ve been playing pretty solid all year. Whether people notice it or not, want to talk about it or not, or praise it or not, it doesn’t really matter. Now in the bright lights is when you got to continue to do it, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Hopefully for the next three weeks I can sustain it.”

Dismiss him at your peril.