It’s nuts that the Warriors, who were dying for a superstar — ANY SUPERSTAR — for so many years, suddenly have the best “next Jordan” since Jordan retired.
“Like Michael Jordan was a whole other thing, this guy is his own thing,” Kevin Garnett said after Stephen Curry scored 46 in a win over the Timberwolves. “It’s beautiful for basketball.”
Jordan turned opposing defenses of his era into tapioca pudding with speed, strength, leaping ability and pure ferociousness. Curry dominates today’s defenses with almost unlimited range, a disgustingly good handle, and the creativity of Steve Nash and Magic Johnson rolled into one player.
But enough about Curry. I want to bring up four players who benefit from Curry while helping him at the same time. A foursome that puts the spotlight on Bob Myers’ favorite kind of player, if I can make such a bold assumption.
- Draymond Green, who apparently took that offseason compliment from Magic to heart, since now it appears like he’s channeling his fellow Spartan alum on the court (7.1 apg — 8th in the NBA). He’s the Warriors’ second-best player this year, and it’s not close.
- Andre Iguodala, who Steve Kerr has compared to Scottie Pippen and may be playing his best basketball as a Warrior over the last couple weeks (besides the Finals).
- Andrew Bogut, who announced that he’s ready to rejoin the starters with his 18-rebound performance on Saturday.
- Shaun Livingston, the quietest Warrior, who lets his game talk when his team needs him in crunch time.
They all defend, they all pass. They can score if the need arises, as Green showed in Minnesota and Iguodala reminded us with 20 points against Memphis and several huge shots — including a game-tying three at the end of regulation — against the Nets on Saturday. It’s no coincidence that these four, along with Curry, were on the floor together through most of late-fourth quarter and all of overtime in their most recent win.
It’s symbiosis at its best. Without Curry, those four players wouldn’t be able to focus on their glue-like tasks. Green would need to focus more on being a No. 2 option that averaged at least 14 or 15 points a game, especially with his salary. Same with Iguodala. Livingston’s lack of range at the point guard position wouldn’t work for most teams, but with Curry and Klay Thompson, it’s totally OK. Bogut’s playmaking abilities don’t mean as much on a less talented team (like his old Bucks squads).
Curry makes the whole thing go. He’s the leader of the team for obvious reasons. He’s the Warriors’ smaller, lighter, nicer Jordan, for goodness sake. Thompson hasn’t played up to his previous standards yet, but his presence demands attention from opposing teams’ top wing defenders. Harrison Barnes dunks and makes threes. Festus Ezeli dunks, rebounds and blocks shots. Leandro Barbosa and Mo Speights score off the bench (although Barbosa is assisting at a higher rate than ever before, and so far this season, Speights has looked off in every way).
But there’s something about these four guys — all with wingspans at least four inches longer than their height without shoes — filling in the gaps. The way they share the ball and use their brains and longer-than-average limbs on defense is what this Warriors team is all about … along with Curry’s greatness, of course. But to be anything like Jordan, you have to win and have the freedom to dominate, and you need the right mix of smart, unselfish teammates to do that.