His junior year of high school, Stephen Curry was given a nickname by the coaches at the Top 100 camp: Samsonite.
Because he comes with handles.
“I’ve always liked handling the ball and been pretty good at it,” Curry said after Saturday’s shootaround. “That’s how I play all the time. I try to be as creative as possible.”
Lately, as teams try harder to stop him, Curry has had to lean heavily on that element of his game. With the steady pressure of the Los Angeles Clippers — especially Chris Paul, who can be a ball-hawk when he wants to — you can expect to see some of Curry’s fancy dribbling tonight.
Curry lit up the Clippers guards for 31 points in Wednesday’s win at Oracle Arena. He dropped 25 in the first half, prompting the Clippers to step up the pressure and double-team Curry.
It’s probably safe to presume the Clippers will employ similar measures from the outset tonight against the Warriors, who are 2-0 against the Clippers this season.
But Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Curry, when healthy, has the skills to prevent teams from taking completely out of his game. One of them is ball-handling, which Jackson said is one of the most underrated parts of Curry’s game.
Jackson, who spent 17 years dribbling through NBA defenses, said he doesn’t view “handles” as being able to do crazy tricks. He considers it that unteachable control of the ball and the skill to manipulate defenses. It’s that innate ability to improvise, dribble instinctively. Intangible qualities you can’t really teach.
“You can get better, but then there is the next level: the gift,”Jackson said. “(Curry) has it. He’s got it all — the ability to lull you to sleep, the ability to change speeds, the ability to handle it with both hands equally as effective. That keeps not only his defender off balance, but all five guys.”
Curry said his lack of exceptional athleticism forced him to get creative with his ball-handling at an early age. His junior year in Davison College, which he spent exclusively at point guard, to prepare for the NBA, really allowed him to master the art of using his shooting ability and his handle to get where he wanted on the floor.
One of the concerns with making Curry the franchise point guard was the question of whether he could get in the lane. Even general manager Bob Myers said he wanted to see more of that from Curry (who Myers signed to a four-year, $44 million extension on Halloween). Curry has gotten noticeably better at getting in the lane.
Unlike Monta Ellis, he doesn’t have the speed to beat people to spot, or the strength of Deron Williams to muscle his way there. Knowing that, many teams put small forward-types on Curry (longer arms to get around, more strength for him to have to get through). Or teams like the Clippers “blitz” Curry (meaning when the he runs a pick-and-roll, they use the big man to cover him until the guard gets around the screen).
That means Curry has to find another way, and that’s when the Samsonite comes out.
“I have a decent first step,” Curry said, “but its not (like) John Wall, Derrick Rose, Ty Lawson, (Chris Paul). I’ve got to get guys leaning a certain way, hopefully, then use my change of speed to get where I want to. Being able to dribble with both hands definitely helps.”