Steph Curry finally returned to the Warriors lineup on January 10 when they faced the Phoenix Suns after missing 11 games. No. 30 partially dislocated his left shoulder in a game at the Indiana Pacers on December 14 and had not featured for Golden State since.
The return of the four-time NBA champion is a huge boost to coach Steve Kerr with the teams form since his injury dropping to a disappointing 6-5 including losses to underdogs the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons. Whilst the Warriors had been struggling this year anyway, there is no doubt of the quality that he brings to the team and the return of a fresh Stephen Curry could be bad news for the rest of the league.
Whilst his return didn’t quite go as planned with the Warriors losing to a depleted Sun’s team, there was plenty to be excited about as Curry grew into the game. Playing 31 minutes, a little under from his average 34.3, he had just eight points heading into the fourth quarter with his side trailing by 19 points. ‘Chef’ then turned on the style to score 16 points in the final quarter to allow them within six points of the Sun’s and winning the quarter 34-27. Although it was not enough to mount a dramatic comeback win, his form in the final 12 minutes showed that Curry is perhaps ready to spark new life into Golden State’s season.
At the halfway point, Steve Kerr’s team sit at eighth in the Western Conference with a 20-21 record, accenting their stop-start season so far. There is a clear outlier among those games in that their form on the road leaves a lot to be desired, winning just three of their 19 games away from the Chase Center. In fact, they have the least number of wins on the road across the entire league. That form is enough of a reason to worry about a Warriors side who were heavily fancied favorites to win their eighth overall championship in 2023.
Despite their topsy-turvy form, the NBA odds still have them amongst the favoritesto add to their trophy cabinet in 2023. Oddsmakers believe that their quality will shine through in enough time and Curry in particular showed against the Sun’s that he can do just that.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Curry said “Obviously, after four weeks, it’s kind of hit-or-miss on how much rust you’ll have and how quickly you can get up to the speed of the game…obviously with the flow, with the way they were playing, first quarter felt good just to be back out there running with my guys and feeling the energy in the building again. And then kind of hit a lull in the second and third quarter. I felt like I got stronger as the game went on, which is exciting to know how the body will respond.”
Kerr echoed this sentiment in his interviews with the media, speaking of how pleased he was with Curry’s improvement as he got a feel for the game after such a long absence.
If Curry can hit his MVP form upon his return then there is still plenty of time for the Warriors to turn round their fortunes this season and there is no doubt that his performances will play a huge part. Although they currently sit in a playoff making position in the Eastern Conference, they have the Jazz and the Timberwolves breathing down their necks and a run of good form from them paired with a continuation of Golden State’s three straight losses could see them drop out of eighth within a couple of games.
Warriors GM Bob Myers spoke of the team’s fortunes without their star man, admitting that it is “impossible” to find an identity without him. A team that is built around his abilities at the top end of the court is bound to struggle when he is missing and so much has been proven since his injury.
Whilst there are no easy games in this league, the Warriors have a favorable road run in their next three facing the Spurs, Bulls and Wizards respectively at the time of writing. A run of wins in these games with a rejuvenated Curry at hand could springboard them towards a fourth-seeding in the conference and begin to vastly improve their road form, which currently sits at just a 15.8 win percentage.
A recovered and well rested Steph Curry is scary to think of for the rest of the league and his performance late in the game against Phoenix may just show that he is hungry for the Warriors to bounce back. With plenty of games left to play they still have as good a chance as any of making good on their odds preseason and No. 10’s return will only add to that.