Here is a link to my Sunday column about Stephen Curry, not a ball handler. The full text runs below:
No offense to Stephen Curry, but what’s with that wacky ball handling?
Curry is a blue-chip NBA player, a true star. Look, we all know that. He is the Warriors’ best player by a mile, and he is the Warriors’ point guard, and that’s a good thing. Until the fourth quarter when it is a very bad thing.
Stephen Curry is point guard as fourth-quarter liability. You watch his mistakes and you just want to smack yourself in the head and declare, “Did I just see what I saw?”
Take what happened in Toronto on the recent road trip. The Warriors were ahead entering the fourth quarter. Curry was shooting like a champ — he ended up with a game-high 34 points. Big number. It’s just that he committed six turnovers in the game, four in the fourth quarter. Big numbers. Bad numbers.
Here are his four fourth-quarter turnovers, the unvarnished facts: 1) Steps out of bounds. 2) Bad pass. 3) Dribbles off his foot and ball goes out of bounds. 4) Bad pass to David Lee and DeMar DeRozan steals the ball.
Curry committed the final two turnovers on consecutive plays. The Warriors lost the game, largely because of Curry’s ball-handling sins. Good grief.
And then there was the Indiana game on the same road trip. The Warriors won. Important win against an elite team, especially on the road. The Warriors were up 10 points when Curry re-entered the game with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter. A steadying influence, he’d bring the game home.
It was another four-turnover masterpiece. 1) Offensive foul (OK, it’s technically not a ball-handling error, but it’s still a turnover.) 2) David West, the Pacers’ power forward for heaven’s sake, steals the ball from Curry, runs down the floor and dunks. 3) Paul George steals the ball from Curry, runs down the floor and dunks. 4) Curry steps out of bounds with the game tied and 46 seconds left.
That last one, the step out of bounds, was a lulu. The camera gave a close-up of Curry’s face after he stepped out of bounds. He was grinning. Understand, he was not happy and he was not taking the play lightly. He’s a serious player.
Here’s how I interpret the grin. He was startled, mentally disconnected for a moment. You see that grin on boxers who’ve just taken a shot to the kisser. They smile. They are in love with the world. Their grinning face indicates they, temporarily, have lost touch with their predicament.
That was Curry. He was rattled. He had suffered a blow. Not a physical blow. An emotional blow.
Lucky for him the Warriors won the game. At one point, coach Mark Jackson realized Curry was murdering the Warriors. Jackson put Andre Iguodala at the point, sliding Curry to shooting guard — a good move. Iguodala promptly dislocated a finger, so Jackson put Steve Blake at the point, Blake another terrific pickup by general manager Bob Myers. Blake, a steady ball handler, a true point guard, helped steer the ship to port.
The Warriors have an issue with Curry. He is a scary fourth-quarter point guard. Jackson knows this but he’d never admit it. Ask him about Curry and he repeats, as if by rote, “He is my point guard.”
God help the Warriors in the fourth quarter with Curry at the point.
Last season, the Warriors had Jarrett Jack. He was important. In the fourth quarter, Jack became the point guard, and Curry was the 2 guard. Jack ran the offense, and it was a good arrangement. This season, there is no Jack. Curry has been running the show in the fourth quarter. Not a good idea.
Curry’s butterfingers don’t matter so much in the regular season. The Warriors are a very good team that will make the playoffs. But his ball-handling issues will be a big deal in the playoffs where every team is good, where every team feasts on an opponent’s weaknesses.
The Warriors cannot afford to keep Curry at the point in the fourth quarter in the playoffs. They should start practicing right now, putting Blake at the point in the fourth quarter. Is he as good as Jack? No. Jack looked for his shot and Blake does not look for his shot. Jack took over games and Blake never will take over games.
But Blake is a brilliant ball distributor and he has not been known to step out of bounds at the absolute worst moment or throw to the other guys or get the ball picked from his hands when all hell is breaking loose and the game comes down to him being composed and steady.
Am I saying Stephen Curry is a bad player?
Heck, no. He is fabulous. The best shooter I ever saw. Name someone better. But he has a weakness and his coach can’t pretend the weakness doesn’t exist.
If the Warriors lose games in the fourth quarter because Curry turns over the ball, if this happens in the playoffs, it is on Jackson. He knows the deal.
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