Opponents get physical with Warriors' shooting star Stephen Curry
Coach says Warriors' standout needs to respond to hard fouls, aggressiveness
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 9:17 p.m.
OAKLAND — Warriors coach Mark Jackson, frustrated during a timeout, yelled and pushed point guard Stephen Curry.
No, Jackson didn't go Bobby Knight on Curry in Golden State's win over Detroit on Wednesday.
Jackson was demonstrating to the officials how they were allowing Curry to be handled. The book on Curry, the most feared of the Warriors, is to be physical with him. So opponents, especially since Curry dropped 54 on New York last month, have been especially hands-on in their defense on him.
No doubt, the defensive-oriented Chicago Bulls will take a similar approach when they visit Oracle Arena on Thursday.
“It is the game plan, and that's not going to change,” Jackson said. “He's a heck of a basketball player. ... He's going to get to a point where they're not going to allow it, and he's going to be called properly. But for some reason or another, guys are being allowed to put hands on him.”
Curry said he has definitely noticed an uptick in the physical play. Opponents are putting bigger, more athletic players on him. They are aggressively trapping him. They grab, hold and bump as much as they can get away with.
It's the new reality for Curry, considered by many to be the league's best shooter. And an adjustment is necessary.
“I'm not the biggest frame, but I'm strong and can handle my own,” Curry said. “I'm not going to back down from it. I've got to play through it because you can never rely on the whistle.”
Jackson, who played point guard in the NBA for 17 seasons, said he remembers the days when hand-checking was allowed. He said he remembers Chicago Bulls Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen “fouling me, I mean guarding me, in the playoffs.” So Jackson knows first hand how difficult it is to maneuver when defenses get physical.
Jackson said Curry is getting progressively better at dealing with the physical defenses. But he also said the Warriors needed to make a few adjustments.
First, Curry needs to do a better job of selling the contact.
Both he and Curry stopped short of calling it flopping. But Curry said the shiftiness he's added to his game to create space works against him sometimes. He said instead of avoiding or countering the contact, he needs to get better at sticking to his course so being knocked off of it becomes more obvious.
“I think he's taking it and making it look at times like it's nothing,” Jackson said. “Sometimes you've got to sell that it is (something). You think that they see it but maybe they don't. So rather than playing through it, you've got to sell it. I'm not going to go to the extent of some of these guards who fling their head back and fling their bodies back and get the call. But he's got to let it be known there is contact on plays.”
Both said the art of selling contact is in the repertoire of the league's great scorers. That is the next part of Curry's development, drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line more, making opponents pay for playing him so tight. Currently, his 3.8 free throws per game is the fewest of the top 15 scorers in the league.
Curry said he also has to remind himself in games to slow down. Since the 54 game, he's totaled 31 turnovers in eight games, the fifth most in the NBA in that span.
“At times I think I've struggled a little bit just trying to go too fast,” Curry said. “They try to speed you up by getting physical and you think you are under pressure and start to rush. That's one thing that I can consciously check myself on in the game, making sure I slow down and be confident if I make my move I can get to my spot.”
Jackson said there was one more thing the Warriors can do to offset some of the physical defense.
“If I'm his teammates, I'm not going to allow it,” Jackson said. “So I'm going to nail somebody and get them off him. So we'll get better at that also.”
Curry said this strategy to stop him is good preparation for playoff basketball. While Jackson said he expects referees to start seeing how Curry is being handled, he also said this is more like playoff basketball and will benefit Curry in the postseason.
Certainly, Curry becomes much more lethal a threat if he can become an effective scorer against physical defenses, especially in the half court. Especially when he's playing off the ball, when he has to deal with physical defense even more.
“We've seen that when he's at his best, it doesn't matter what you try to do,” Jackson said. “He's that good that I don't think there's an answer. But there is certainly an attempt to try to cool him off. (Be physical with him is) what the data shows, which we're fine with. We understand and he'll continue to get better.”