You can’t help but get the sense Mark Jackson is expecting big things this season from Stephen Curry.
Many fans may be ready for the Warriors to move on from Curry, or are at least concerned whether he’d ever reach his potential. Jackson, on the other hand, seems to be doubling down on Curry. Check out this exchange Monday:
Is it good for Jarrett Jack to be there to challenge Curry?
“He doesn’t have to think about it. Steph Curry’s my starting point guard.”
“Steph Cury is my starting point guard.”
So if he doesn’t play well come January …
“Steph Cury is my starting point guard. I mean, I don’t know what you’re looking for. Steph Curry is my starting point guard.”
It stood to reason, based on recent history, that Jack might be a threat to Curry. Jack is a better defender, has more experience and is a proven leader. But it seems Jack, the veteran point guard who had a career year starting last year for New Orleans, is a bigger threat to second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson than he is to Curry.
“You can absolutely do that,”Jacksonsaid when asked if he would play Curry and Jack together down the stretch. “Part of the credit for ownership and (GM) Bob Myers and the front office, they went out and got a guy that can defend the position, has size, not afraid of the moment, can play on the ball, can play off the ball. So he’s a guy that can complement Steph and he certainly gives us some toughness. And there’s no question about it, he’s insurance. We’re not trying to create and panic. We’re going to miss Steph if anything happened to him. But we have a guy that’s a proven starter and is as good as it gets as a back-up in this league.”
Wait for it …
“But Jarrett Jack knows his role. He’s going to play. He’s going to play both backcourt positions. But Steph Curry is my starting point guard.”
Jackson hardly sounds like he has his doubts about Curry. He certainly doesn’t seem to be waiting for a Chris Paul miracle. Maybe he knows that the best basketball in Curry’s young career was when Don Nelson anointed Curry the leader of the team. Maybe he hasn’t allowed Curry’s injuries and weakness to overshadow Curry’s strengths and potential — especially if he has weapons around him.
Provided Curry is healthy, this training camp will probably begin the point guard-coach relationship expected when Jackson was hired as head coach. Warriors management started that process by putting players around Curry that won’t take away from his game.
“Monta Ellis is an exceptional player, but he’s also a guy that needs the basketball and in order to be most effective. At times you’ve got to run the offense through him. Klay Thompson is a guy that traditionally gets his in transition, gets his off of down screens and catching and shooting, simple offense. Which makes it easier for a guy like Steph or a point guard to run his show.”
Jackson, a noted point guard during his 17-year career, is continuing that process by removing all doubt from Curry’s role as a leader. The next step is putting the ball in his hands and getting him the point guard experience he needs.
“I want him to be aggressive on the floor. I want him to be a guy that’s making plays. He’s more than a great shooter. He can use that deceptive speed, he can get into the paint and he can be a handful. And I think we’ve seen that when he’s been 100%. I think having weapons around the floor is going to open up things for him much more. Whoever starts, you’ve got to guard five guys on the floor.”
After having surgery to repair his right ankle on April 25, Curry was cleared for full medical clearance last week. Jackson said Curry has been unlimited in his workouts with the team.
Still, though he has no limitations from doctors, Jackson said he will keep a close eye on his starting point guard.
“I will monitor him,” Jackson said. “He’s here every day and he’s doing everything that everybody else is doing. He’s playing live and feels fine. But I’m going to, as a coach, be smart with him. There’s no sense with me having him doing suicides and him running crazy and all of that. Once again, I know where my bread is buttered and I’m going to use wisdom with picking and choosing when to have him go full-throttle and when to shut him down. He’s a guy that always wants to play and wants to participate, so sometimes you’ve got to protect him from himself and understand also it’s a long year. And here’s a guy that hasn’t played in quite a while.”
* Mark Jackson said he doesn’t have in mind a starting small forward yet. But he has a plan for choosing one.
“Ultimately what you do is you roll the ball out and you let those guys decide who starts,”Jackson said. “At the end of the day, I think it’s important — doesn’t mean who’s the best player — what makes us better as a team. And I’ll make that decision going forward watching them, watching them as a unit and seeing where we’re at.
But right now, I don’t have an answer for who my starting small forward is.”
Basically, Jackson said he needs to see which of the candidates — veteran Richard Jefferson, swingman Brandon Rush or rookie Harrison Barnes — fit best with the other four players tattooed in as starters.
It may play out that the starting small forward needs to be a defender. If that’s the case, it would seem Rush would be the front-runner.
However, Jackson said pegging a defensive-minded player to start doesn’t necessarily excludes Barnes from the mix. He described Barnes as having great athleticism and the competitive spirit to be good on defense.
“He has stepped up to the challenge. Basically, every day he’s out there he’s defending Klay Thompson. That’s as tough a match-up as you’ll see on our court because he gets so many screens and Klay has the mentality of scoring the basketball. So you have to defend him all day every day. But Harrison has not run from that challenge, and it’s refreshing to see.”
Of course, you can’t talk about defense and the small forward position without talking about one of Jackson’s favorites from last season: Dominic McGuire.
“He’s a big loss,” Jackson said. “He was a great guy, did a great job for me. I told my guys in the locker room 50 times that he was the poster child for what we preach from Day 1.”
Jackson said McGuire became the odd man out after Rush was signed and Barnes was drafted. He said McGuire’s role likely would have changed anyway because the Warriors wouldn’t have asked McGuire to do as much as they did a year ago.
Last season, McGuire not only defended practically every position, he was called on to play point forward, locker room leader and enforcer on the court. This season, with the Warriors’ depth, he likely would’ve been relegated to spot defensive assignments against hot players.
Jackson said he could see rookie Draymond Green emerging as the team’s Swiss Army knife this year.
“It will be interesting. I think we’re going to watch camp and get an understanding of the best way to use him, how much he will play, what will be his primary position. But he’s a guy that can play the 3, can play the 4, can handle the ball, can shoot the ball, can defend, can rebound. He’s a winner. He’s just going to have to be a guy, pretty much like Dom, that had to stay ready and be prepared to do the job — whatever that job is.”