STATELINE, Nev. – When the Warriors were projected to win 47 games and maybe snag the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference last season, with little to no chance of winning it all, it formed a smile inside Stephen Curry.
He was back under the cloud of doubt, where he has lived most of his life. He had overcome so many labels -- too soft, too skinny, too fragile, too small, etc. -- and now, after missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons, came another.
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Curry, who turned 34 in March, delivered a typical response. He shushed the skeptics. Became the NBA career leader in 3-point shots in December. Was voted All-Star Game MVP in February. Led the Warriors to a victorious NBA Finals in June and was a unanimous MVP selection.
While Steph’s season, and that of the Warriors, can be considered resurgent -- or maybe a reminder -- nothing about it surprised his brother, Seth.
“It didn’t really shock me because I know the work he puts in,” the Nets guard told NBC Sports Bay Area from the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on an episode of "Dubs Talk." “I know the type of athlete he is – and the competitor he is.
“I knew he would come back with a vengeance and try to get to the top of the game and get even better.”
Golden State Warriors
Though many of Curry’s regular-season statistics were a shade below his standard, his impact was precisely as it always had been. As the center of the team’s universe, his presence allowed Andrew Wiggins to flourish, Jordan Poole to reach the door of stardom and Gary Payton II to become one of the league’s most effective reserves.
Steph saved his best for the blinding light of the postseason, when over 22 games he averaged 27.4 points, shooting 45.9 percent from the field, including 39.7 percent from distance, 5.9 assists and 5.2 rebounds. He’s one of eight players to average 25-5-5 in the playoffs (20 or more games), and he has done it twice.
“I saw him all these years getting better,” Seth Curry said. “Even after the MVP season, he came back better and better.”
Much of the credit goes to Steph’s in-season habits and his offseason work with personal trainer Brandon Payne. As the Warriors were ousting the Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, Dallas coach Jason Kidd offered quite the compliment to Curry.
“Steph is the best-conditioned athlete in this game,” Kidd said. “He never stops moving.”
Diligence to the craft is the key, and Steph is as driven as they come. He realizes he prime seasons are dwindling, so he remains committed to a program that maximizes his gifts.
Steph heard the “window is closing” chatter last summer. Clapping back at the doubters is, for him, inherent. He made sure the clapping was loud enough for everyone to hear.