8

Game #8 (3-5): Warriors 121, Knicks 107

If you’re Stephen Curry, and you’re sitting on the bench all game long, and you’re watching Chris Duhon struggle, and Nate Robinson all over the place, and Toney Douglas put his head down and look to score, would you be longing for New York.

Curry is beloved in New York, and he is needed, and judging by the way Chris Duhon is looking these days, he wouldn’t have to worry about being humiliated by a coach who blindsided him with a bench-warming session.

Everybody knows Curry really wanted to play in front of the Madison Square Garden crowd. Everybody knows he was looking forward to it. And if you didn’t know it, you could tell by the increasing frustration he tried to swallow with each passing minutes.

The hard part for Curry was that he had no idea. He was expecting to play, perhaps even to put up a big game. Next thing you know, his warm-up was still on and the first half was almost done.

I know rookies are just rookies, but it seems Nellie didn’t do team chemistry any favors by how he handled the situation. It would’ve almost been better to just not play him at all. But to reduce him to the scrub at the end of the bench who the crowd solicits in blowout games, that was kind of cold. I’ve been that guy before, so I know the feeling.

Curry hasn’t been playing well, to be sure. But he’s never been that guy. Ever. In the family section after the game, he walked up to some people he knew. And you could hear some sweet older woman say, “Well it’s okay. There’ll be other games for you to play.”

Ouch.

To be sure, Nellie made the right call. Not by benching Curry the entire game, per se. But he pushed the right button by getting C.J. some action. I don’t think there is a problem with Curry not playing much if he’s not playing well or someone’s playing better. I don’t think he has a problem with it either. I do think it would’ve been a good move if he pulled Curry aside and communicate with him a little. Dare I say coddle.

I get it, he’s a rookie millionaire. He’s supposed to take what the coach gives him and smile. Well, he did that. Curry issued a few relatively zinging comments, but all in all he sounded like the upstanding rookie who knows his role.

But from an organizational standpoint, especially with the Warriors’ history, it seems like this is the time, while he’s a rookie to … wait for it … curry favor with him (been waiting to use that). Because one day, Curry won’t be a humble rookie. If the Warriors are right in their assessment, he’ll be a star point guard with all the power. And if he doesn’t feel good about where he is, he’ll bolt.

No question about it, the Knicks would be coddling him. You could tell he loved the treatment he received in New York. I bet D’Antoni would’ve put his arm around Curry at shootaround and all but apologized for the fact that he wasn’t going to play him much. Even offered to pick an injury as a reason for him not playing. And if he didn’t do it, Donny Walsh might’ve.

It just seems the Warriors keep dropping the ball on these opportunities, in denial that this is a players’ league and you have to take care of your players. I know some of you out there are inherently anti-players, but if you look at the state of the Warriors now, part of the reason for all this is, for whatever reason, players feel like this organization does not have their best interest at heart.

Not that they don’t need tough love. Some, especially who are acting wayward, need to have the law laid down. But Curry isn’t that guy. So why risk creating a bitterness in the guy who could be the face of the franchise.

Anyway, here is the transcript of the postgame with Curry (talked to him after the NY media devoured him). You could tell he wasn’t happy, especially not with David Lee:

Did you know you weren’t going to play much?

“I didn’t hear I wasn’t going to play or whatever. I just came in with the same attitude I’ve come in with every game to this point. Just ready for my name to be called to get off the bench and play some minutes. We were playing so well the whole game, I think he didn’t want to change things up.”

I know the team won, but how does it feel to watch the game from the bench?

“It sucks. It sucks. You don’t want to be sitting and watching. Especially how the season started, it’s kind of a different situation. Hopefully I won’t get used to it. We’ll see what happens.”

Would you rather have gotten a DNP than come ine for short stretches with too little time to get into rhythm?

“I have no say over that part, so it doesn’t really matter. Fans here are pretty supportive, chanting the name and all that. That was cool to hear.”

Ever been the scrub at the end of the bench who gets the sympathy cheer?

“First for me. (laughs) That’s a first.”

Does this taint your New York experience?

“We got a win. That’s why we’re here. So you just gotta take it in stride and keep moving. I still had fun when I came here and the atmosphere was great.”

What did it mean to have NY fans cheer for you?

“It meant a lot. You like to have fans that support you, even if you’re not playing. Just to see you get in and dribble the ball a couple of times. I had fun doing it and I hope they continue to support.”

Did you take your frustration out on David Lee? (NOTE: At the end of the game, Curry blocked a Lee layup. You could see him look back and say something to Curry, then the two had words on the other end of the court)

“It was good that it was at my belly button so I could just [makes swatting gesture]. (Laughs)

Did he tell you good block?

“He was mad because when I blocked it, I was like ‘Gimmie that.’ And he thought it was disrespect some how. But he woulda done the same thing. Then he came up in my face. I didn’t think that was necessary at that point in the game.”

Do you have any sense of what you need to do to get back to playing a lot?

“Just keep doing what I’m doing. They haven’t told me I’m doing anything wrong to this point. I’ll ask questions because I hate this feeling. But I come in and work every day. I work hard. I try to learn. I take practice seriously. So I’ve got to keep doing that and be patient.”

You expect to play in Milwaukee?

“I don’t know. Depends on how coach is feeling. I don’t know what his exact reason was for the change of minutes for me. … Right now, I’m just happy we got the win and I’ll ask questions tomorrow.”

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Nelson tried to deflate the questions about Curry with jokes. He is usually pretty funny, but they bombed with the New York audience. Pregame:

Why is Curry not starting anymore?

“I took him out of the starting lineup because he doesn’t have any tattoos.”

Crickets.

“In fact he doesn’t have any tattoos. How can a guy start in the NBA with no tattoos.”

Not even the sympathy laugh. It was awkward. So awkward, Nellie tried the line again during post-game. Like I said, Nellie is usually pretty funny. Friday wasn’t his night.

How do you keep Stephen Curry from being demoralized by playing just two minutes?

“He’s got to get some tattoos, I told you. He can’t play until he gets some tattoos. I’m just kidding. This is the first time we haven’t used him. He’s got to understand that other guys were playing great tonight. There’ll be other times for him to play.”

Listening to it over, there might’ve been a sympathy laugh in there. Maybe it was a hiccup. Curry does have a tattoo on his left wrist below his palm. The letters TCC and the number 30.

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Because it is old news now, I won’t get too much into the details of the game. The Knicks are terrible. Instead, will let you know I talked to team president Robert Rowell, who categorically refuted the CBSSportsline.com piece that says Nelson could be off the bench and become a consultant soon.

ROWELL: “It’s hard to comment on an article when I have never had a discussion with the person who wrote it. It is complete nonsense.”

“We do plan on meeting when the road trip ends, but it has nothing do with that.”

Rowell would not comment on the purpose of the meeting. But his account confirms what I’ve heard from other team sources I trust: there are no plans to remove Nelson.

That doesn’t however, rule out the possibility of Nelson asking to be a consultant at this coming meeting. I think, and this is just my opinion, the Warriors would oblige – if Nelson walked away from the money he’s due.

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Oh yeah, a clarification on the Randolph situation.

Friday at New York, he totaled just shy of seven minutes of action.  He played 4:24 in the first half. He checked in with 5:40 left in the third. On one offensive possession, he was out of place and had to be pointed in the right direction. The next time down, he drew a foul and made both free throws. Then Maggette checked in for him at the 4:18 mark.

Randolph, in obvious disgust, walked to the bench and tossed the ball over his head in the air (it landed on C.J. Watson’s head). Randolph walked to the end of the bench and shouted some words towards the coaches before sitting down. Moments later, assistant coach Keith Smart walked to the end of the bench to talk to Randolph, calming him down. Randolph didn’t return to action until the last 35.1 seconds of the game.

So what was all that about? It began in Indiana. Randolph her his shoulder blocking a shot. He played through it. Friday, when he drew that foul, he tweaked his shoulder again, and the bench saw him favoring it some. So they took him out of the game, especially since they didn’t need him as the Knicks went small, too.

Nellie gave Randolph a low five as he came off the court and told him that they noticed he hurt his shoulder. Randolph obviously disagreed with the decision. He thought his shoulder wasn’t nearly hurt enough to keep him off the court and he wanted to stay in.

After the game, Randolph said “my shoulder is perfect.” It was hard to tell which was which at first, because Nellie has been known to give a guy he didn’t play a phantom injury, and Randolph has been known to downplay an injury to get on the court.

But before Saturday’s game at the Bucks, Randolph admitted he did tweak his shoulder but said it was fine and he could’ve kept playing.

Marcus Thompson

  • James

    Marcus,

    Any validity to the rumors of Nellie leaving the team as early as next week?

  • http://feltbot.com/ feltbot

    I think when Monta Ellis is traded, and Curry is installed as the starter and the face of the franchise, his hurt feelings at Nellie’s cold-hearted and abusive treatment of him will be soothed.

  • Swopa

    Marcus, your frame of “players-versus-Nellie/the W’s front office” misses the larger point of what’s going on here.

    There is no way Nellie can satisfy SJax, Monta, *and* Curry because Jax/Monta resent the fact that Curry is on the team at all. Generously, one could say that they wanted the pick traded for a veteran who could help the W’s win now.

    Less generously, you could say that keeping Curry — because Nellie/Riley believe he is a potential star at PG — makes clear that the W’s management doesn’t believe Monta/Jax are good enough cornerstones to build a winning team around, so they’re already planning for a future nucleus (e.g., Curry, Morrow, Randolph).

    Either way, Curry’s presence is *exactly* what Jax and Monta are most upset about. And not playing Curry in NY was Nellie’s way to placate them for the moment.

  • DocM

    Lol @ James. Good question. Now, ask him if Curry liked being benched.

  • David M.

    Hi Marcus,

    I like what I see a little in Curry. I would not say I’ve been blown away by his performance thus far. In fact, I think he’s got to play better to stay on the floor. If you’re going to get pounded on defense, you better be doing some pounding back at the offensive end. So far Curry has not exactly lit up anyone.He’s a nice kid who could be a good PG someday.Right now, he may not even be the second best pg on the Dubs.Hopefully tonight he’ll come out against another rookie pg(Jennings) and show Nelson he belongs in the rotation.

  • upintheredwoods

    Well, even if the Warriors are terrible to watch or listen to, at least they are interesting to read about. Thanks for the info, Marcus.

  • DocM

    @Swopa – I agree, except I don’t think he’s trying to placate Montjacko as much as showcase them, to up their value as much as possible, as it’s now reached a boiling point and they now have to go (if not Nellie).

    On another note, I like that Curry has come in and not tried forcing shots and is trying harder than Monta ever did to learn to actually play the point. I want to see him try to be CP3 not AI.

    BTW. If the CBS article is accurate I’m way angrier at Rowell than anyone else. Lastly, I don’t trust Rowell’s vote of confidence in Nellie. Owners and front office guys are serial liars and this godfather-esque type of backstabbing is common.

  • WE BELIEVE..WE SUCK

    get rid of nelson!!!! how many talented players is he going to get rid of, for example: chris webber, baron davis, al harrighton, jamal crawford, stephen jax wants to go, ellis wants go..wtf when is this going to end? all the Dubz need is a good power foward ie boozer, bosh etc