We all know about the cold-blooded 3-pointers, killer cross-overs and ridiculous circus that helped make Stephen Curry the first unanimous Most Valuable Player in NBA history. Yet for all the wondrous things the guy has done on the court, it’s his contribution away from it that’s the most overlooked of all.
At $11.37 million, Curry has done all this as the 65th highest-paid player in the league. He ranks a few bucks behind teammate Andre Iguodala and a few ahead of the Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic. Because he’s so grossly underpaid by industry standards, team management has had the resources to assemble the deepest team in the league.
What’s more, Curry’s impact may be felt after the final shot of the season, when the Warriors will be in position to pursue Kevin Durant, the plum of the free agent market. For instance, if Curry was paid Joe Johnson money — $24.89 million, believe it or not — it would be far more difficult to add another impact player to the roster.
The Warriors are lucky, all right. They’re lucky that Curry was a health risk when he signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension, one of the biggest bargains in professional sports history.
PARTY’S NEARLY OVER: Barring serious injury, Curry will get his soon. In the Summer of ’17, he’s eligible for a bump to about $33 million per season, or 30 percent of the projected $110 million salary cap.
Even if Curry agrees to a 10 percent discount, his $30 million salary will compromise one of his team’s chief strengths. In that case, nearly $64 million will be committed to three players — Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Add Durant to the mix and the number skyrockets to more than $90 million, which leaves crumbs for the rest. That’s when general manager Bob Myers and company will really have to earn their money.
TIME FOR A RECOUNT: Not to slight Curry or anything, but if Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t a unanimous MVP after a 1961-62 season in which he averaged 50.4 points, 25.7 rebounds, an estimated half-dozen blocked shots and 48.5 minutes per game, then no one is.
MORE TO COME: If LeBron James already is peeved that Curry has replaced him as the face of the league, imagine how hacked off the Cleveland Cavaliers’ player-coach is to also finish behind Kawhi Leonard in the MVP vote.
Yeah, Leonard is a heckuva two-way player, all right. But it’s silly to think that he’s more valuable to the San Antonio Spurs than James is to his supporting cast. Then again, James is his own worst enemy. He has been so dominant for so long, the voters are bored by him now. Just as Curry will become old news at some point, too.
If the Cavaliers and Warriors meet in the NBA Finals again — OK, make that when they meet this spring — figure James to have an even larger chip on his shoulder this time.
TWO FOR THE SHOW: Call this the Year of the Dubs and Cubs.
That’s right, the Chicago Cubbies.
Only weeks after the Warriors set the NBA standard for most victories in the regular season, the Cubs are on ridiculous pace for a 127 victories in a top-heavy National League. That’s 11 more than the modern record set by the Seattle Mariners in the 2001 season.
Disclaimer: The Mariners gagged in the playoffs. And the uniforms still say Cubs on the fronts.
JUST SAYIN’: If Balls is the Warriors, it wants to play the Spurs rather Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the next round. Because you can take LaMarcus Aldridge out of Portland, but you can’t take the Trail Blazer out of him.
The Giants are a .500 team right now, which means they’ll clinch the West Division title any week now.
Free agent pitcher Tim Lincecum may want to sign with the first team that offers him a contract. The grass isn’t always greener even if it does smell pretty much the same.
Catcher Josh Phegley pitched a scoreless inning the other day, and it’s only a matter of time before the Athletics realize that he can throw to himself and slash payroll.
The Raiders to Las Vegas is a done deal, according to Balls’ sometimes-reliable sources, but only if the two sides can agree on owner Mark Davis’ hair style.
THE LIST: Balls’ grossly premature predictions for the 2016 49ers season:
Los Angeles Rams 21, Niners 13: Rookie Jared Goff throws for two touchdowns, but as Niners coach Chip Kelly points out, the kid did it with small hands.
Carolina Panthers, 33, Niners 3. Next …
Seattle Seahawks 24, Niners 7. Next …
Dallas Cowboys 20, Niners 17. Kelly on Colin Kaepernick: “We like our quarterback.”
Niners 17, Arizona Cardinals 14. Blaine Gabbert comes off bench, sparks the victory.
Buffalo Bills 21, Niners 13: Next …
Niners 21, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17: Balls likes to say Jaquiski Tartt, mentions name five times in column.
Bye week: General manager Trent Baalke scouts Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Niners 26, Saints 24 (overtime): Rookie DeForest Buckner scores game-winner on safety.
Cardinals 44, Niners 21, Kaepernick throws two pick-sixes in the first period, Cardinals claim visitors tip off plays.
Patriots 55, Niners 0: Homeboy Tom Brady throws for six TDs, three in the fourth quarter.
Miami Dolphins 17, Niners 9. Jarryd Hayne scores on a trick rugby play, but TD is called back.
Bears 10, Niners 6. D-coordinator Vic Fangio holds former team to 112 yards, eight first downs.
New York Jets 23, Niners 13. Kaepernick goes down hard, out for season.
Atlanta Falcons 35, Niners 17: Gabbert starts, Thad Lewis finishes.
Rams 30, Niners 21. Privately, CEO Jed York wishes his team could move to L.A.
Seahawks 31, Niners 21. Niners clinch first pick in the draft, Baalke fired, Kelly calls first season a success.
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